March 30, 2022
The Honorable Pete Buttigieg
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20590
RE: Letter of Support, Port of New Orleans
St. Claude Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation Project
FY 2022 RAISE Grant Program
Dear Secretary Buttigieg,
Thank you for your continued advocacy for our nation’s transportation system, including bridge infrastructure. The Louisiana Motor Transport Association is writing on behalf of the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) to express our strong support for its application for discretionary grant funding under the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program to complete the rehabilitation of the St. Claude Avenue bridge, which is owned by Port NOLA. As more fully explained below, it is critically important that this bridge be substantially rehabilitated as soon as possible to avoid unacceptable risks to pedestrians, bicyclists, vehicular traffic and maritime commerce.
The St. Claude Avenue bridge, more than 100 years old, is an iconic, historic bridge located in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is a 1919 patented Strauss heel trunnion bascule bridge connecting St. Claude Avenue over the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (IHNC) in New Orleans. The unique design of the bridge features a concrete counterweight mounted above the roadway that is attached to the metal bridge with separate interconnected assemblies. This design was considered innovative at the time because this type of counterweight provided more flexibility in terms of the structure size and length. This design of the bascule leaf allowed bridges to be larger and longer and able to support railroad crossings.
Approximately 21,000 vehicles traverse the bridge every day. Thousands of pedestrians and bicyclists also cross the bridge regularly. The bridge serves as a hurricane evacuation route (State Highway LA 46) for New Orleans’ Holy Cross and Lower Ninth Ward neighborhoods and St. Bernard Parish residents. The operation of the St. Claude Bridge also allows navigation of marine traffic through the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, which is a critical connection between the Mississippi River, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and Lake Pontchartrain.
A recent inspection report of the structural, mechanical, and electrical condition components of the bridge found the bridge’s structural condition to be fair with some poor conditions. Many of the floor system members below the deck of the Tower Span exhibit moderate to significant deterioration, and multiple cracks exist in the counterweight truss members.
The St. Claude Bridge is rated by the FHWA as Critical Condition (code 2), a designation for bridges with advanced deterioration of primary structural elements. Close monitoring is necessary to recognize deterioration that may require bridge closure until corrective action is taken. If the bridge is not rehabilitated and it fails, it will be kept in the open position for marine traffic as required by the U.S. Coast Guard until repairs can be made resulting in the rerouting of all bicycle, pedestrian, and vehicular traffic. In the event of a hurricane evacuation, the failure of the bridge would be extremely burdensome to the thousands of citizens seeking to evacuate the City of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish.
The rehabilitation project consists of:
- structural repairs;
- mechanical repairs;
- electrical repairs;
- improved bicycle and pedestrian access.
Thank you for considering this discretionary grant application, which is vital to the New Orleans region, the State of Louisiana, and the national and regional transportation system. This Project will promote the safe movement of bicycle, pedestrian, and vehicular traffic over a navigable waterway while significantly reducing the annual cost of maintenance repairs.
C. Renee Amar