BY CRYSTAL STEVENSON
The Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance launched its “In for 10” campaign Wednesday to build support for a new Interstate 10 bridge over the Calcasieu River.
“This effort is designed to get citizens to sign on and show their support, working with elected officials at every level,” said George Swift, alliance president and CEO. “It’s an important issue not only for us in Southwest Louisiana, but really it impacts the nation because we are truly the energy corridor.”
Swift said U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany and U.S. Sen. David Vitter have already lent their support.
“This is not something new,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this for years and years and years. I think we’ve reached a point where it’s time to really step up and get this in motion.”
The current bridge, built in 1952, was deemed “basically intolerable” in 2009 by the National Bridge Inventory.
“It’s structurally sound, we’re told, but we all know it’s unsafe,” Swift said.
A recent study found at least 53,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day.
More than 20,000 more vehicles are expected to cross the bridge daily within the next eight to nine years, Swift said.
“We have declining capacity and increased congestion coming to our area,” he said. “We have so much happening in Southwest Louisiana with projects and growth coming that’s going to put even more pressure on the I-10 bridge.”
Swift said construction on the decking of the I-210 bridge is expected to begin this summer and will take about two years to complete.
“At best, one lane in each direction on the 210 bridge will be open, but from what we’ve heard all of the truck traffic will be diverted to the I-10 bridge. This is going to really put more impact and pressure on the I-10 bridge.”
Swift said the main delay in replacing the bridge is litigation over a 1994 ethylene dichloride pipeline leak around the area under the bridge.
“The big issue before us is the environmental impact,” Swift said. “That has been the key to getting this resolved because there was a chemical spill and remediation has got to be dealt with before anything else can be done.”
Todd Landry, District 7 administrator for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said contamination cleanup is underway under the bridge. “It’s ongoing, but they are working on cleanup,” Landry said. “And they test as they go.”
An environmental impact statement had been underway since March 2012, but is being delayed until mid-2017 due to a navigational use study, Swift said.
“As it stands now, it could be another 20 years before a new bridge is built,” Swift said. “Since 1980, we have heard about plans to rebuild the I-10 bridge. This community can no longer wait.”