A little known fact is that the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad owns the Huey P. Long Bridge across the Mississippi River at New Orleans, Louisiana. The Public Belt maintains the railroad portion of the bridge while the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development / LADOTD maintains the roadway portion.
The Huey P. Long Bridge, completed in 1935, was the longest and highest steel railroad bridge in the United States. It is 4.35 miles long from abutment to abutment, with 153 feet mean clearance below. It is a combination rail – highway structure and originally provided a four-lane highway, two one-way lanes on each side of a double- track railroad.
After Hurricane Katrina, the state determined the bridge and local area was in need of more capacity to handle current and future traffic needs. It was decided that the Huey P. Long Bridge would undergo a widening project to address these needs. The first phase of the Huey P. Long Bridge Widening Project in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, began in April 2006. This four-phase project, long-awaited by local communities, added an additional travel lane and inside and outside shoulders to each side of the highway portion of the bridge. The widening was completed in July 2013 ahead of schedule.
In January 2010, the Huey P. Long Bridge Project was awarded the American Concrete Institute’s “Best Concrete Project Award, 2009 Highway and Bridge Projects Award of Excellence”.
Huey P. Long Bridge:
In 1916, the State of Louisiana passed an amendment granting the City of New Orleans exclusive power to build and operate a crossing of the Mississippi River. At that point, three methods were given credence for what type of crossing to build; a tunnel, a low-level drawbridge, or a high level bridge. Due to the many constraints and limitations in this critical waterway, the design of a high-level bridge was decided upon. In 1925, the engineering firm of Modjeski and Masters began their design of this iconic bridge. Following delays due to the complexity of the project and financial difficulties of the Great Depression, bonds were issued to the Public Belt Railroad Commission on November 5, 1932. Construction contracts were signed on December 30, 1932 and construction began the next day. The Huey P. Long Bridge opened for traffic in 1935 with 4 lanes (2 one-way, 9 ft wide each lane) of highway traffic and two railroad tracks. While adequate for 1935 highway traffic, in 1988 the State of Louisiana began to realize that the existing bridge was not meeting the traffic needs of our growing metropolitan area. In 1989, The State of Louisiana created the TIMED program which is designed to appropriate funding for transportation infrastructure to enhance economic development. In 2006, the $1.2 billion widening project began that would give the bridge 6 lanes (3 one-way, 11 ft wide each lane) with shoulders. In July 2013, the widening project of the Huey P. Long Bridge was completed ahead of schedule.
New Orleans Public Belt Railroad – Huey P. Long Bridge Widening Project:
The one-of-a-kind truss widening design and ponderous maintenance of traffic rail, ship, barge, and road movements led to innovations such that the project won numerous awards. The LTM Public Outreach Department, DOTD Public Outreach offices, and the contractor’s public outreach efforts made the award judges jobs easy. These awards are listed below.
One of the important roles during the design and procurement phases for the project involved the coordinated effort on behalf of the DOTD and the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad by LTM with the designer Modjeski and Masters, Inc. to fulfill the requirements for the nomination of the Huey P. Long Bridge as an American Society of Civil Engineers Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. The basis for the historic significance is the distinction of holding the record as the longest railroad bridge at the time it was built as well as being the first railroad bridge spanning the Mississippi River in Louisiana. It has stood the test of time and now is being extended into the future with a new service life.
- New Orleans Press Club Best Press Kit, July 2006
- International Association of Government Communicators Award of Excellence, June 2008
- American Concrete Institute Louisiana Chapter Award of Excellence, January 2009
- American Road and Transportation Builders Association Pride Award for Public Outreach, May 2010
- Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) New Orleans Chapter Award of Excellence for PR Strategy, Special Event, September 2010
- Construction Innovation Forum (CIF) NOVA Award, November 2011
- American Society of Civil Engineers National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Designation, September 2011
- International Association of Business Communicators New Orleans Communicator of the Year, June 2012
- First Place National Association of Government Communicators Best Use of Facebook, June 2012
- Bentley Be Inspired Award for Innovation in Bridges, November 2012
- Alliant Build America Award for Highway/Bridge Construction, March 2013
- Alliant Build America Award for Best Project, March 2013
- ENR Texas & Louisiana Best Projects Award of Merit, October 2013
- ASCE OPAL nomination for Best Project of 2013
- National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA) 2014 Award, April 2014