Accidents on the Steepest Bridges in Louisiana

Accidents on the Steepest Bridges in Louisiana

Bordering the Gulf of Mexico with its many lakes and rivers, Louisiana is home to 13,000 bridges. These bridges use different designs and come from many eras. Several bridges stand out in Louisiana’s history and amongst those that travel in and around the state. Some are well-known due to their scenic views and design, while others are notorious for the dangers they pose to motorists.

What Is the Steepest Bridge in Louisiana?

From afar, the Calcasieu River Bridge may not look much different from many other bridges. However, as you drive towards the base of the bridge, you will realize just how steep this towering bridge truly is. The peak of the bridge reaches 135 feet above the water. This bridge has a grade that ranges from 3.8 percent to 5 percent, depending on where you are

Although it is not the highest bridge in the state, the Calcasieu River Bridge holds the title of the steepest bridge in Louisiana and can be a harrowing drive. As part of the I-10 corridor between Lake Charles and West Lake, it is not uncommon for over 90,000 vehicles to travel along the bridge each day. With a speed limit as high as 50 mph and a frequent commercial truck route, it can be a problematic area with a high rate of accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

What Is the Longest Bridge in Louisiana?

For many years, the longest bridge in Louisiana also held the title of the longest bridge in the world. The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is a 24-mile-long double bridge that connects the cities to the north and south of Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans. While it no longer holds the title as the longest bridge in the world, it is still in the top 10 in the world and is still the longest bridge in the U.S.

This bridge that runs down the middle of Lake Pontchartrain can cause an isolating feeling to travelers that cross it. For a good portion of the bridge, you can't see land in any direction. Due to the location and expansiveness of the bridge, accidents along the bridge can be difficult to get to quickly and it can take time for victims to get help.

What Is the Tallest Bridge in Louisiana?

The peak of the highest bridge in Louisiana, the Horace Wilkinson Bridge, is 167 feet. It allows drivers to cross the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge on Interstate 10. Due to its location along I-10 and proximity to the capital of Louisiana, this bridge is heavily traveled and an area where traffic accidents are quite common.

Other Notable Louisiana Bridges

  • Huey P. Long Bridge - An I-10 bridge on the outskirts of New Orleans allows for the passage of railcars and vehicles across the Mississippi River.
  • The Manchac Swamp Bridge - Three of the longest bridges in the U.S. call Louisiana home. Number two on the list is the Manchac Swamp Bridge coming in at just under 23 miles. This bridge is part of interstate 55.
  • I-10 Twin Span Bridge - This bridge runs on the easterly portion of Lake Pontchartrain. As part of I-10, it runs directly into and from the city of New Orleans. Over 50,000 vehicles cross this bridge every day.
  • John James Audubon Bridge - A newer Louisiana bridge,  built in 2011, this modern-day bridge allows for the crossing of the Mississippi River north of Baton Rouge.
  • Atchafalaya Basin Bridge - the third longest bridge in the U.S., this 18-mile bridge, built in 1971, connects Baton Rouge and Lafayette along interstate 10.

How Old Are Louisiana’s Bridges?

The vast majority of the bridges in Louisiana are decades old with some of the older bridges older than 50. Unfortunately, the old age of many of the bridges within Louisiana translates to deteriorating conditions and dangers for the public that use the bridges in their commutes and travels.

Many bridges built decades ago were not built with the same safety standards as today. Some are too steep, some are too narrow and some are simply in desperate need of repair. Regardless of the cause of their conditions and design, many of the older bridges in Louisiana pose a risk of accidents to drivers each time they cross one.

Are Louisiana’s Bridges Unsafe?

The bridges of Louisiana are infamous for their widespread poor conditions and deficiencies in safety and construction. Surprisingly, there are over 1,800 bridges that are in poor condition, according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation. While you may think that these bridges must then be out of service, the reality is that the majority of these bridges labeled as poor or structurally deficient are along a route driven each day by tens of thousands of drivers.

What Makes Louisiana Bridges Dangerous?

Bridges are necessary for drivers to continue their travels quickly across the many bodies of water throughout Louisiana. In many cases, it can be impossible to avoid a bridge and its dangers. Accidents are common on bridges because of a combination of various factors. Ultimately, it is the action of a negligent driver that is likely to initiate the sequence of events leading to an accident, but the condition of a bridge can cause more serious injuries to victims and cause an impact on more vehicles.

#1. Weather

Cold weather and wet weather are both contributing factors to the dangers of bridges. Due to their exposed state and elevation from the ground, bridges will usually ice over before a road. Drivers that may not realize conditions are deteriorating or know when bridges are in danger of icing can find themselves in a dangerous situation where vehicles are unable to brake quickly or can lose control on the slippery surfaces, leading to accidents.

#2. Trucks

Many bridges in Louisiana are along roadways such as I-10 and other major interstates and highways. Long-distance truckers making commercial shipments to other states or within Louisiana itself frequently use these passages to reach their destinations. Bridges are often narrow with factors such as load weight, height clearances, and maneuverability increasing the risk of an accident involving a large truck, semi-truck, or tractor-trailer.

#3. Design

A good portion of Louisiana bridges is 30 to 50 years old, with even older structures in the more historical areas of the state. These aging bridges have older designs that do not account for the needs of today’s transportation makeup. Larger populations, bigger and heavier vehicles, and an expanding commercial trucking industry can cause a faster deterioration of these structures and a higher chance of an accident on bridges that cannot handle these demands day in and day out.

#4. Traffic

Getting stuck in a traffic jam on a bridge is not only frustrating but can also be dangerous for you and your passengers. Rear-end collisions and lane change accidents are common along bridges with heavy traffic. Any accident, whether minor or severe, will see delays for police on the scene and EMS services when it occurs on a bridge. With often no shoulder and traffic at a standstill when an accident happens, it can be hard to find a safe location while you wait for help after a collision.

Are the Bridges Getting Fixed?

While some progress is ongoing towards the repair and addition of safety features to the bridges in Louisiana, the progress is slow. Lack of infrastructure funding and contract issues between the state and providers creates constant challenges to the upkeep of these bridges.

Some bridges such as the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway have seen recent improvements, such as the installation of safety rails to prevent vehicles from driving over. However, other bridges such as the Calcasieu River Bridge face endless delays and complications that seem to end with no changes or repairs to an aging bridge that terrifies many who must cross it to reach their destination.

Do You Need a Lawyer if You Are in an Accident on a Louisiana Bridge?

It is a common recommendation that you should get an attorney to represent you after a car accident. After a bridge accident, it is a necessity. Bridge accidents can involve multiple vehicles and there may be factors such as the condition of the road and the bridge itself that are also to blame for the accident.

A bridge accident attorney can evaluate your case and help you figure out what compensation you could be eligible for. When you suffer injuries and losses because of the negligence of a driver, you have legal rights. Part of those rights is to seek compensation for the damages you may recover.

An attorney understands the law that applies to motor vehicle accidents and the unique scenarios that a bridge accident can cause. With an attorney at your side, you will have the experience and resources to help you fight for the maximum damages you are eligible for after an accident.

What Damages Can You Be Eligible For If You Are In a Bridge Accident?

Bridge accidents can range from a minor fender bender to a catastrophic collision with multiple vehicles and victims. The damages you can recover after a car accident will depend on the severity of the accident, your injuries, and how you can continue your life after the accident. Insurance coverage may be available for the recovery of your damages or you may need to file a lawsuit against the parties responsible. It is always best to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible after a crash to go over what your options are and the next best step for you.

Damages in a bridge accident case can include:

  • Medical expenses - The costs of medical treatment and care after a crash include emergency transportation and treatment, surgery, therapy, rehabilitation, medical equipment, and transportation to and from your appointments and follow-ups. For some victims, medical expenses will be for emergency treatment and follow-up; but for those victims suffering from severe near-fatal injuries, they may face lifetime medical costs due to the accident. A personal injury lawyer can not only help you fight for your current medical bills, but also those which you may incur in the future because of an accident on a bridge.
  • Your loss of wages - From a few hours of missed work to days and weeks of absence due to recovery, you are at risk of significant income losses after a motor vehicle accident. Depending on the extent and type of injuries you suffer, you may not even be able to continue in your line of work. An attorney will help you calculate the impact a bridge accident will have on your ability to earn an income currently and in the future.
  • Pain and suffering - The personal loss you feel and experience after an accident should not just be part of the process. An accident can be a life-changing event that leaves victims facing unfair and unexpected obstacles and challenges in their future. Compensation for pain and suffering allows a victim to seek monetary recovery for losses that are personal to you, such as your quality of life, the impact of the injuries on your mental and emotional health, as well as the physical pain and discomfort you must deal with every day.
  • Personal property damage - Vehicles are the most common personal property part of an insurance claim or lawsuit for a bridge accident. However, if you lose other personal property in an accident such as eyewear, electronics, or other items in or on your vehicle at the time, you may be able to recover the value or repair with the help of an attorney.
  • Wrongful death losses - The loss of a loved one in a bridge accident is not something most people prepare for or plan. The expense of the unexpected death of a loved one can be overwhelming and leave many families making difficult decisions. With a lawyer, you can seek compensation for the wrongful death of your loved one, including for the expenses related to funeral and burial arrangements.