AASHTO Journal, 28 August 2015
With this the 10th anniversary of the time when Hurricane Katrina devastated so much of the U.S. Gulf Coast, and the New Orleans area in particular, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is producing a series of short videos explaining some of its response.
In one, DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas and other department officials tell the story of what happened to the long Interstate 10 Twin Span Bridge connecting New Orleans to Slidell, La., across the eastern end of Lake Pontchartrain.
“The storm surge came and lifted the bridge panels up and set them down in the water,” LeBas said. “It looked like a line of dominos that had just fallen.”
Vince Latino, chief maintenance engineer, explains how he flew over the scene in a helicopter and shot video footage – shown in this report – that showed the disassembled bridge panels disassembled from their support piers.
The department’s task was to figure out how to get at least one span of the structure reopened to traffic as soon as possible, while planning for the longer term how to get ready for the next big storm that would require a taller, wider bridge.
“We knew it was going to be a historic effort from our part,” said Paul Fossier, bridge design engineer administrator, “because we’ve never had a bridge structure this big, this long, damaged to this amount.”
The DOTD got one side of the bridge reopened to two-way traffic in 45 days, LeBas said. Fossier explained the projects that over six years replaced the original spans with two more.
In a separate video, DOTD officials explain another part of transportation system management that can become critical during a hurricane – evacuating an area the size of New Orleans.
Since that storm, the official say, the region’s highway capacity has grown along with emergency response use and testing of “contraflow” traffic techniques for faster and more orderly evacuations on roadways. IN addition, the state has put contracts in place to move in buses when needed to move people who are not evacuating by personal vehicle.
Yet another video looks at how the DOTD handled removal of massive amounts of storm debris that was well beyond the department’s normal capacity.
Among other results, the department now has debris removal contingency contracts in place to bring in extra help, and pre-approved debris disposal sites to avoid trying to get approvals in the middle of an emergency response effort.