BELLE CHASSE, LA, APRIL 12, 2021 - Governor John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary, Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.d., joined local, state and project partners to virtually break ground on the brand new Belle Chasse Bridge over the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Plaquemines Parish.
The $169 million project consists of constructing the new, fixed span bridge and demolition of the existing bridge and tunnel. The proposed bridge will include four, 12’ travel lanes, 4’ and 8’ shoulders and dedicated bicycle and pedestrian lanes.
The project is currently in the design and construction phase, with completion estimated in 2025. The new bridge is expected to be fully open in early 2024, but demolition of the current system will take an additional year.
“Today is a good day for the neighbors and businesses in Plaquemines Parish and Southeast Louisiana,” said Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. “LA 23 through the current bridge and tunnel is a vital economic corridor and thoroughfare for most of our neighbors in Plaquemines Parish. Making this project a reality was not an easy task, and we are grateful for our partnerships with local, state, federal and project leaders, as well as our neighbors.”
Drivers and businesses in Plaquemines Parish are in need of more reliable infrastructure over the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The current bridge and tunnel are more than 50 years old and near the end of their designed life span. The project is overdue, because of frequent, costly repairs and maintenance, which inconveniences the 33,000 drivers who use the current infrastructure. The existing bridge opens and closes more than 10 times daily, and stays open for seven minutes at a time, hindering traffic.
DOTD was able to secure a $45 million INFRA grant from the U.S. DOT, $26.2 million from the National Highway Performance Program, $12 million from the Metropolitan Planning Organization, and $12 million from GARVEE bonds. While those efforts were remarkable, they were not adequate to build the new, necessary bridge.
“We are elated to bring reliable, efficient infrastructure to the people of Belle Chasse and Plaquemines Parish,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D. “Thousands of Louisianans are inconvenienced by our current system and these improvements will enhance their quality of life. I am extremely proud of our team and our partners, who utilized creative, innovative funding sources to make this happen, and provide better infrastructure for our neighbors.”
In need of innovative funding, DOTD used the first public-private partnership (P3) in Louisiana history, which is a collaboration between a government agency and a private-sector company, Plenary Infrastructure Belle Chasse, to finance, build and operate projects.
“We are honored to be the private partner in Louisiana’s first public private partnership for transportation,” said Chairman Dale Bonner, Plenary Infrastructure Belle Chasse. “We so much look forward to partnering on this project. It is exciting. Once the bridge is complete, those using the bridge will no longer experience the unexpected closures and delays that are so often required to repair and maintain the structures.”
DOTD believes this project will pave the way for other P3s in the state, as the INFRA grant obtained, which covered more than 25% of the project, was exclusively designed for P3s. The remaining $70 million will be financed through Plenary and paid back through tolling operations. Tolls will not begin until the bridge is opened.
Plaquemines Parish residents will be given a free transponder, then charged 25 cents for a passenger car trip across the new bridge. Non-locals will be charged 99 cents per trip. Tolling will increase by one cent yearly and two cents every five years. The toll will be adjusted in relation to the consumer price index. The tolls will cover the costs of current bridge and tunnel operations and future operations and maintenance. After 30 years, DOTD will assume the responsibility of costs and tolling will cease.
A study performed by DOTD revealed an overwhelming majority of Plaquemines Parish neighbors use the existing bridge on a daily basis, whether for work, appointments, shopping or recreational use. The drivers revealed their most important concern was reliable, predictable commutes.
DOTD believes this project will provide economic growth through dependable infrastructure and improve safety, efficiency and the quality of life for many Louisianans. This major replacement shows what we can accomplish when we work together with our state, local, federal and project partners to put Louisiana neighbors first.
Please click on the following link to view the virtual groundbreaking of the Belle Chasse Bridge and Tunnel Replacement Project:
To sign up for project updates, please visit bellechassebridge.com and provide your email address for notifications to come directly to your inbox as construction continues. Interested parties can submit questions to the project team via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.