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Huey P. Long traffic switch this week

Started by brownpelican, September 28, 2010, 06:11:48 PM

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Huey P. Long traffic flow changing on west side of river
Paul Rioux, The Times-Picayune

More than halfway through a seven-year, $1.2 billion project to widen the Huey P. Long Bridge, the first major change in traffic flow is set to occur this week.

West Bank-bound motorists coming off the bridge will cut straight through the traffic circle onto new U.S. 90 lanes on the west side of the railroad tracks running down the middle of the bridge.

Currently, westbound traffic curves around the circle to lanes on the east side of the tracks.

The changeover, tentatively set for Thursday, is part of a redesign to eliminate the antiquated traffic circle, long blamed for backups at the foot of the bridge. The new highway lanes extend nearly a mile to Louisiana 18.

On Friday, eastbound traffic approaching the bridge on U.S. 90 is scheduled to be diverted to the old westbound lanes to accommodate drainage work.

Although the widening project won't be completed until mid-2013, the new traffic pattern could pay immediate dividends by easing congestion at the West Bank end of the bridge.

"Sending traffic straight through the traffic circle should help move things along a little bit faster. Not a lot faster, but a little," said Tim Todd, a state engineer helping oversee the project.

A third lane and shoulders are being added in each direction to transform the notoriously narrow Depression-era bridge into a modern six-lane superhighway, with overpasses replacing inefficient traffic circles at both ends.

Four years into the project, new elevated bridge approaches are taking form and crews are expanding the massive superstructure to support the wider bridge. But until now, the traffic flow has remained the same as when the bridge opened in 1935.

Bridge officials emphasized that even though motorists coming off the bridge will cut through the West Bank traffic circle, they still must yield to vehicles using the circle.

This part of the transformation has already been partially implemented and there have been some near-collisions as some motorists fail to yield, said Indira Parrales, a project spokeswoman.

"It's sort of counterintuitive to have to yield when you're going straight through the traffic circle instead of merging with vehicles going around the circle," she said. "We've had some near misses, but no crashes so far."

Sure enough, a bridge official giving a reporter a driving tour of the changes had to honk to avoid being broadsided by a van that failed to yield as it came off the bridge.

The bridge widening -- one of the largest infrastructure projects in state history -- will expand both sides of the bridge from two 9-foot lanes with no shoulders to three 11-foot lanes with a 2-foot inside shoulder and an 8-foot outside shoulder. The overall width of the paved surface will more than double, from 18 feet to 43 feet on each side.

The project is designed to improve safety on what has long been a white-knuckle trip over the Mississippi River and increase access to Jefferson Parish's last sizable tracts of undeveloped land in the Waggaman-Avondale-Bridge City area.

So far, lane closures and other disruptions caused by the project have predominantly affected West Bank motorists who use the bridge to get to work or go shopping. But significant changes are coming for east bank motorists, including those who might never use the bridge.

Next month, a section of River Road under the bridge in Elmwood will be closed for up to two months as crews install massive girders over the roadway to support new elevated approaches to the bridge.

And in two or three months, the Jefferson Highway overpass at Clearview Parkway is slated to be demolished, creating a signaled intersection that is expected to increase traffic congestion near the foot of the bridge.

The overpass will be torn down to eliminate the east bank traffic circle by routing bridge traffic over Jefferson Highway, instead of the other way around.

Bridge officials have delayed the demolition a year beyond the original target date to minimize the impact on traffic. But the work can't be postponed any longer without slowing down the project, Todd said.

He said contractors are required to keep two lanes open in all directions during peak traffic hours.

"We are going to do everything possible to minimize the disruption, but this will very much be an active construction site," Todd said. "It's going to be dusty, I can tell you that."

Paul Rioux can be reached at or 504.826.3785.


the real question is, will the cateyed signs survive?
live from sunny San Diego.


Jake, they're not touching the signs yet, you're safe.
To answer the original point, it's a terrible idea to have a bridge approach yield to a traffic circle.  It should definitely be the other way around unless you use traffic signals.  So maybe that's a point - why not signals?


Quote from: AlpsROADS on September 28, 2010, 09:46:10 PM
Jake, they're not touching the signs yet, you're safe.
To answer the original point, it's a terrible idea to have a bridge approach yield to a traffic circle.  It should definitely be the other way around unless you use traffic signals.  So maybe that's a point - why not signals?

Traffic is heavy in all directions at the circle. I don't think signals would help the situation honestly. Traffic was heavy enough that at rush hour police had to move around the circle blocking cars from entering at each end so that the circle could move in intervals. A signal would just stack cars up onto the bridge and back down to the intersection on the other side. It's interesting that they're having accidents due to a change that hasn't occured yet. I just drove through it about an hour ago and you still go through the circle.

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