Modular bridge reconnects Louisiana community hit by Hurricane Ida

Modular bridge reconnects Louisiana community hit by Hurricane Ida

Phil Puccio

Dive Brief:

  • When Hurricane Ida hit the U.S. on Aug. 29, the Category 4 storm destroyed infrastructure across the northern Gulf Coast and beyond, including a vital bridge in Jefferson Parish in southern Louisiana. Global bridge engineering and supply company Acrow built a modular steel span to reconnect the area until a permanent replacement can be installed, according to a press release from the company. 
  • The original swing bridge could move to provide a clear waterway for ships to pass through, so Acrow said it had to quickly fabricate special curve filler decks in order for the temporary bridge to accommodate that swinging motion. 
  • The bridge components began to arrive at the site on Sept. 20, and the span opened to traffic on Oct. 7 after only three weeks. It will be in place until a new swing bridge is constructed, according to the release.

Dive Insight:

The Leo Kerner Swing Bridge was the only vehicular bridge the 1,200 residents of Barataria had to the mainland. When a rogue barge destroyed that link in the storm, they were left stranded. The state Coast Guard installed a temporary floating bridge within days, allowing community members out and first responders in. 

However, that floating bridge could only support a single lane of traffic, and residents needed a more robust solution to hold them over until the permanent replacement could be installed. Enter Acrow, which has experience in restoring damaged infrastructure in emergency conditions. It quickly supplied the bridge that once again connected the communities of Jean Lafitte and Barataria.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to assist in this project to restore a key transportation lifeline in the wake of Hurricane Ida,” said Acrow CEO Bill Killeen in the press release. “Drawing on decades of service in recovery from disaster, our Rapid Response Team understands the challenge of restoring infrastructure quickly and can provide immediate response in the most difficult conditions.”

The replacement consists of two 100-foot-long spans, each 24 feet wide, which can accommodate marine traffic, according to the release. It is not clear when the permanent bridge will be installed. 

This is not the first time such a temporary bridge has been used following a natural disaster. When Hurricane Irene hit the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 2011, it severed Highway 12 in two places on the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. A temporary bridge to span the largest breach took less than a month to build, according to The Virginian-Pilot. In late June 2012, Tropical Storm Debby washed out a span on U.S. 301 in Jacksonville, Florida. A temporary steel bridge opened the first week of July to serve motorists while a permanent replacement was built next to it. 

Such bridges can be a boon after crashes, too. When the driver of an oversized truck hit and damaged a section of the Interstate 5 Skagit River bridge between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2013, a temporary replacement was installed in weeks.

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