Calcasieu River Bridge

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I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge
Calcasieu River Bridge.JPG
Carries I-10 and US 90
Crosses Calcasieu River
Locale Between Lake Charles, Louisiana and Westlake, Louisiana
Other name(s) I-10 bridge
Maintained by Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development
ID number 071004509127691
Design Through truss
Total length 6,605.1 feet (2,013.2 m)
Width 52.4 feet (16.0 m)
Longest span 420.8 feet (128.3 m)
Designer N.E. Lant
Opened 1952
Toll Free both ways

The Calcasieu River Bridge, officially named the World War II Memorial Bridge in June 1951[1] is a trough truss located on Interstate 10 between Lake Charles, Louisiana and Westlake, Louisiana. It was the only major bridge in Lake Charles, until the construction of the Lake Charles Loop with the I-210 Calcasieu River High Bridge began in 1962, with an average annual daily traffic (2009) of 51,800. The bridge has a vertical clearance of 135 feet (41 m). It was built under the administration of Gov. Earl K. Long and opened in 1952. It has decorative iron work with crossed guns integrated into the railings. The I-10 Bridge was originally built as the U.S. Hwy 90 bridge and later was grandfathered into Interstate 10. The bridge was never intended to be an interstate bridge, and when the federal government took it over, they promised to replace the bridge at a later date.[2]

The bridge has been rated structurally deficient by the Department of Transportation but was declared safe by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD). There are plans to replace the bridge and improve the Westlake exit.[3]


Construction began in 1949, as part of U.S. Route 90 in Louisiana, and was completed in 1952. The bridge was built before the Interstate Highway System, and included pedestrian walkways that are forbidden on interstate highways, so the bridge is also rated as functionally obsolete.[4] Before the bridge was built, U.S. 90 traffic crossed the Calcasieu River over a draw bridge located by the Port of Lake Charles on Shell Beach Drive, which runs around the south side of the lake. The remnants of the old bridge can still be seen at the end of Shell Beach Drive by the Port.


The I-10 bridge has been listed by the National Bridge Inventory (NBI) as Structurally Deficient with a rating of 3 and a Sufficiency Rating of 9.9 out of 100.[5] Louisiana has 13,361 bridges with 1,722 (12.89%) listed as SD.[6]

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (La DOTD) initiated a proposed project to replace the bridge in 1999. A feasibility study for the project was completed in 2002 with a projected cost of $450 million.[7]


As an indication of the bridge rating, a zero means that a bridge is closed. The rating of 1 is not used. The rating for the Calcasieu River Bridge has dropped significantly from 1992 to 2010. The 1992 report listed the deck condition as poor (4 out of 9), the superstructure condition as fair, with a 5 out of 9, an evaluation of structurally deficient, and a sufficiency rating of 40.9. In 2010, the deck condition was 4 out of 9 (the same), the superstructure condition was rated as serious (3 out of 9), the substructure condition was rated as serious (3 out of 9), and a sufficiency rating of 9.9 was assigned. These ratings evidence is a drastic drop in all but one area. The majority of heavy traffic SD bridges have a sufficiency rating of 50 or better.[8] The I-35W Mississippi River bridge had a sufficiency rating of 50 in 2005, was listed again as "structurally deficient" and in possible need of replacement, and had ongoing repairs to include overlay, lighting, and guardrails, before falling in August 2007. A contributing factor has been attributed to the extra weight caused by the construction.

Because of the severe substandard rating, the speed limit has been dropped to 50 mph and heavy trucks have been limited to the right lane on the bridge. This actually causes truck traffic to have to contend with merging ramp traffic from both ways, but particularly the east-bound ramp that merges at the foot of the bridge, creating a bottleneck. With the extreme height of the bridge, trucks speeds drop considerably to as low as 20 mph, creating a steady bumper to bumper congested traffic flow across the entire bridge at times, adding a substantial amount of weight on the bridge.


In June 2011, the Louisiana DOTD began a $5.7 million repair project (State Proj. No.: H.006783)[9] on the bridge. Safety and structural repairs included replacing 48 girder pins, and the work was finished by December 22, 2012. Hangers were used for worker safety and precautions were taken to comply with environmental regulations. The existing girder pins were 4-in. (10.2 cm) and were replaced using 4.5-in. (11.4 cm) pins. To facilitate the larger pins, special custom-built drills were used. New 0.875-in. (2.2 cm) A325 structural bolts were used in the pin plate connections. Patrick Bernier, project manager for Topcor Services, LLC, general contractor for the project stated, "The bridge is safe, but it is too narrow according to modern highway standards [ . . . ] And it is too steep on its approaches.”.[10]

Designer N.E. Lant used 5,286 pairs of crossed decorative cast iron pistols placed on the bridge railing, reportedly in homage to pirate history and legends of Jean LaFitte, being the name he preferred, and 50 to 60 pairs have been damaged or determined to be missing. As part of the project, these will be replaced, along with damaged parts of the guard rails.[11][12] The original castings were done by John Lester Boone Foundry Works of Lawtell, Louisiana. Missing/stolen pistols were recast by an Alabama foundry in the late 1980s and again in the 2000s during major overhauls of the bridge.[13] A state official in Scott, Louisiana stated in 1992 to a Boone descendant that so many people would walk up the thin sidewalks of the bridge at night to chip out and take home the crossed pistols as mantel pieces, that the ornaments had to be replaced to prevent the handrails from collapsing.[14]

Bridge concepts[edit]

Concept A: Would be a new eight lane bridge including an auxiliary lane in both directions. The center of the bridge would be 170 feet north of the center of the current bridge and would require the existing bridge to be removed. The frontage roads would merge onto the bridge and be one-way.

Concept B: Would be a new six lane bridge with two lane service roads on each side built on the outside or the same structure. This concept includes removing the existing bridge and would be for two-way traffic on the frontage roads.

Concept C: Would be a new six lane bridge similar to concept B but with the frontage roads on separate structures. This would also require the removal of the existing bridge. This concept would be more invasive to the environment requiring three bridges to be built and would be for two-way frontage roads.

Concept D: This would be a new six lane bridge with the existing bridge to be rehabilitated and used for the frontage roads. This is the only concept that would require the existing bridge to remain and has some preference because the old bridge has historical significance and is a candidate for historical classification. This design would be for one-way frontage roads. A disadvantage to this concept would be invasion on the beach property and is considered one decision on a particular bridge (considered in 2002) has still not been determined and this has been pushed off until 2016. The preliminary report, subject to change and updating, shows that all the concepts and alternates have common features, calling for steel box girders for the main spans, four spans at 200', 270', 270', and 200', u-turn on the east end, improving the I-10 profile at abandoned railroad, modifying the existing ramps on the east end of the bridge for westbound traffic and eastbound exit at I-10 and US 90 (east), center-line alignment 3 (or similar), bridge profile 2, and the Ryan street ramp construction.

There are currently four alternates that use two of the four bridge concepts differing depending on if one-way or two-way service roads are chosen. Alternate 1 shows a preference for bridge concept A. Alternate 2 shows a preference for bridge concept C with continuous service roads across the bridge. All the bridge profiles use models with a 95' finished grade elevation, 57.10' lower than the current bridge, and a vertical clearance of 73' that is 62' lower than the current bridge. All bridge models show a 3% grade on the west side. The east side would be 3% for bridge profile 1, with 2.25% for profile 2, and 1.65% for profile 3..[15]


In 2015 the Calcasieu River Bridge became 63 years old. With over 600,000 bridges, the average bridge age in the United States is 42 years old, with one in nine rated as deficient. Louisiana has a total of 13,050 bridges and 1,827 (14%) are considered deficient. 1,963 bridges (15%) are considered functionally obsolete.[16]

It had been decided the bridge needed replacing since before 2002. There are several areas of concern including the age of the bridge, the seriously low bridge ratings, steep grades, traffic congestion, amount of traffic that has been estimated at around 55,000 vehicles a day, low vertical traffic clearance, and contamination. These contributing factors rank the bridge as "a dangerous bridge" and 7th in the nation in need of replacing.[17]

Traffic congestion[edit]

There are several causes of traffic congestion including; a bottle neck caused from three lanes of traffic dropping to two in the busy corridor, an estimated traffic of 55,000 vehicles a day, sharp curves on the east side of the bridge in Lake Charles with reduced speed limits, a narrow bridge. The bridge is listed as currently being 6,617 feet ( 1 1/4 mile) length with a finished grade of 152.10" elevation. The east grade is 3.8% (listed in 1982 as 3.78% both ways) and the west grade is 3.8% and 5% 600' from the crest. There are no shoulders, no turn-around in case of accidents, and an exposed elevated walk-way on either side that also contributes to the bridge being obsolete.[18]


A major issue of concern has been the contamination of the Calcasieu estuary. A 1993 Condea Vista Chemical Company pipeline spill was reported by the company to have leaked 1.6 million pounds of a highly toxic chemical known as ethylene dichloride. Mother Jones reported the spill as potentially discharging between 19 and 47 million pounds that would have spread throughout parts of the estuary. Sasol Ltd purchased Condea Vista in 2000[19] inheriting the controversy. The site was designated a "super-fund site" and Sasol has been involved in long term legal battles that have resulted in settlements, fines, and clean up of affected areas. A problem is that the chemical sinks in water and gets covered by deposits of silt. Cleanup would inherently disturb the covered chemical stirring it up causing further ecological damage. The lower end of the estimated spill (19 million tons) would be two times the 1988 US production of ethylene dichloride that was 9,445,000 tons. 1.6 million tons were cleaned up.[20] Any construction might disturb contaminated soil so would have to be constantly monitored.[21]


  1. ^ World War II Memorial Bridge-Retrieved 10-2-2015
  2. ^ "About A Bridge: A Structure That Tells A Story". Axiom Amnesia. 
  3. ^ "I10 Calcasieu River Bridge". 
  4. ^ Posted Mar 12, 2010; Retrieved 2013-04-16
  5. ^ Retrieved 2013-04-16
  6. ^ Reportcard- Retrieved 2013-04-16
  7. ^ Bridge and Approaches Over Calcasieu River - Retrieved 2013-04-16
  8. ^;National Bridge Inventory data - Retrieved 2013-04-16
  9. ^ DOTD bridge info - Retrieved 2013-04-16
  10. ^ Bridge makeover- Retrieved 2013-04-16
  11. ^ crossed pistol and guardrail replacement project- Retrieved 2013-04-16
  12. ^ Lake Charles American Press- Last Modified: January 18, 2013; Retrieved 2013-04-16
  13. ^ Damaged pistol ornaments replaced-Retrieved 10-2-2015
  14. ^ Bridge work-Retrieved 10-2-2015
  15. ^ I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge and Approaches report p. 30- Retrieved 10-2-2015
  16. ^ Bridge report Louisiana statistics- Retrieved 10-1-2015
  17. ^ Dangerous bridges- Retrieved 10-1-2015
  18. ^ 2002 Report p.31- Retrieved 10-1-2015
  19. ^ Sasol to purchase Condea Vista-(10-10-2000), Retrieved 10-2-2015
  20. ^ Condea Vista spill estimates- Retrieved 10-2-2015
  21. ^ Condea Vista chemical spill- Retrieved 10-2-2015

Coordinates: 30°14′14″N 93°14′45″W / 30.2371°N 93.2458°W / 30.2371; -93.2458