Louisiana is filled with breathtakingly beautiful natural wonders, like the Atchafalaya River Basin (okay, that one isn’t entirely natural), the profound wetlands, like Maurepas Swamp, along the southern parts of the state, and Honey Island Swamp, along with its swamp monster, Tainted Keitre. Besides the natural beauty of the state is the manmade culture that goes along with it and the people who call it home. Louisiana is a place that is hard to exist in if you aren’t a diehard Saints Football fan, don’t like Cajun and Creole food, and find shame in eating a poboy from a gas station. It is unlike any other place in the US and probably the world, which is good when it comes to some of the scariest bridges of Louisiana. If you are easily spooked by height, unsteady roadways, or crazy traffic, you may want to skip this bridge!
Let’s Talk Bridges
The bridges and roads of Louisiana are a different story. It is a place where lakes fill potholes, and swerving is acceptable. There’s even a big sign in New Orleans that reads, “Welcome to Pothole City!” We haven’t even started to discuss the situations with some of the bridges. Louisiana is filled with terrifying bridges. If you are driving a moving truck across the Manchac Swamp Bridge, you may consider giving up and heading back. That’s not even the worst bridge! Let’s spend some time talking about the scariest bridge in the state and how it came to have the title.
Calcasieu River Bridge History
The Calcasieu River Bridge is known by many different names to those who know and travel by it. Some of those terms cannot be written here but will be left up to your imagination to figure out. Some of the other names are the I-10 Bridge, the Louisiana Memorial World War II Bridge, and the Pistol Bridge. It is sometimes locally referred to as the pistol bridge because of the ornate crossed-barrel pistols that adorn the top inside of the railing. They represent none other than Jean Lafitte’s legendary pistols, which have massive historic value in Louisiana. It’s a local superstition that Jean Lafitte buried treasure and possessions nearby. Legend has it that he hid his pistols among the decoratory ones on the bridge.
Some Numbers for Clarity
The bridge was built in 1951 but did not open to traffic until 1952. It stands 135 feet tall at the tallest point and is a mere 52 feet wide, which is narrow for a four-lane interstate. Daily, the bridge has approximately 50,000 vehicles driven across it and has seen its fair share of accidents. When it was built, long before Interstate 10, it was a Highway 90 bridge. It was built to last approximately 50 years and carry 37,000 vehicles across daily. It has been 20+ years past its expiration and the amount of travelers it sees daily fluctuates somewhat with holidays creating a large amount more traffic though on any given day the bridge sees more than 90,000 vehicles cross it.
The National Bridge Inventory states the Calcasieu Bridge is in serious condition. Serous condition, as defined by the NBI is when “Loss of section, deterioration, spalling, or scour have seriously affected primary structural components. Local failures are possible. Fatigue cracks in steel or shear cracks in concrete may be present.” At this time, the Calcasieu Bridge is the most important infrastructure needing repair in the United States.
Why the Calcasieu River Bridge is Scary
The Calcasieu River Bridge was voted one of the US’s scariest bridges for a reason; it’s truly terrifying. Nothing in the video will help to ease your fears. If anything, it will possibly create more fear. The bridge badly needs to be replaced. It’s needed this for a long time, which just makes everything you can physically experience on it that much worse. Below is a brief list of reasons that make the bridge one of the most terrifying bridges in the US.
List of Reasons
- The clanging sounds as you cross each section on the bridge.
- The bridge is 70 years old, and even the Department of Transportation has said it is structurally and functionally deficient.
- The bounce of the bridge, especially if you are so unlucky as to sit in stopped traffic while on it.
- If you have vehicle/health issues or another emergency while on the bridge, there isn’t a shoulder to pull off on. If you stop in your lane, you run a very serious risk of injury or death.
- Vehicles speeding around you in both lanes and then cutting you off.
- Dump and construction trucks throw debris all over your vehicle with every bridge segment. This plays further into your heightened awareness and makes you jump in your seat.
- The bridge is at overcapacity at any given time. You can imagine what that means when rush hour stopped traffic is on it.
- The rusted overhead beams begin the process of you imagining how rusted and frail the rest of the bridge is.
A Few More Reasons
- The steep hike up the bridge is soon followed by the equally steep descent. It’s then that everyone will hit 100 mph, especially the 18-wheelers that cannot stop.
- If you’re last in line of stopped traffic after the bridge’s peak, you just have to hope the speeding cars and large trucks see your taillights in time.
- The bridge is narrow, which makes driving next to an 18-wheeler or a person on their phone that much scarier.
- The bridge is over water. If your car ends up below the bridge, there’s a good chance you won’t make it out alive.
- Driving next to an 18-wheeler and being unable to get away from them while they swerve into your lane countless times.
- Due to the vibrations throughout the bridge, proper lighting has not been possible because it fails to work every time.
Help is On the Way
Currently, a project is underway to tear down the old Calcasieu River Bridge and build a new, safer bridge in its place. In July 2023, the details and move one step closer to actually beginning the rebuild. They say it will take an estimated seven years and 2.1 billion dollars to get through the painstakingly long process which has been discussed and finalized since 2017. We all know how fast the government works by now so this should, sadly, come as no surprise. That being said, it’s also Louisiana so add a few more years onto the end number. Louisiana has certainly been placed on the backburner a time or two before.
The Latest Update
According to the Louisiana DOTD website, the company responsible for the massive undertaking is the Calcasieu Bridge Partners, which is a joint venture of Plenary Americas US Holdings, Inc., Sacyr Infrastructure USA LLC, and Acciona Concesiones S.L. Calcasieu Bridge Partners is based out of Delaware and holds its headquarters in Los Angeles. The two men heading the operation are Stuart Marks, co-head of investment and project structuring, out of the Los Angeles office, and Brian Budden, CEO of Plenary Americas, out of Ontario.
The project will take the 1.25-mile bridge and lengthen it substantially to a 5.5-mile long bridge. This will cut the need for a steep incline out of the issue entirely and make a much safer bridge. It’s not just about length; the bridge will also get significantly wider. It is currently 68.5 feet wide (not just including the actual driving lanes) and will be much wider to include more lanes and a hazard lane/shoulder on each side. The construction could begin as soon as early 2024. One downside is that the road will be a toll road but it’s still up in the air as to how much the fee will charge.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © typhoonski/iStock via Getty Images
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