Sunday, May 19, 2024

New Orleans Crescent City Connection lighting project begins; get ready for some traffic issues

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The long-awaited Crescent City Connection lighting project is underway, which by the end of this year will add thousands of programmable lights to the bridge and have it glowing brightly before New Orleans hosts next year’s Super Bowl.

But this summer, get ready for some traffic headaches.

Right lane closures on both sides of the iconic twin span over the Mississippi River are already in effect, and are expected to last until some time in July. Left lane closures are then expected through mid-August, according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation, which is in charge of the project. 

The Crescent City Connection photographed in New Orleans, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Photo by Sophia Germer, The Times-Picayune)

The West Bank-bound Tchoupitoulas Street entrance ramp will remain closed through mid-August. A detour is in place on Magazine Street. The east bank-bound Tchoupitoulas Street exit ramp will remain open.

Already, traffic issues are starting to show up during rush hour. On Tuesday, West Bank-bound commuters were at a near standstill on the Pontchartrain Expressway at about 5:30 p.m. Bumper-to-bumper traffic stretched to the Jefferson Parish line where Interstate-10 intersects with Insterstate-610.

State transit officials say the closures are necessary to take down existing lights and for installation of conduits and wiring. The project is expected to be completed early next year.

Why do the CCC lanes have to be closed?

They are timed to coincide with summer break for local schools and to end before the height of hurricane season, said Scott Boyle, a DOTD engineer administrator.

“There’s tools, there’s material that’s going to be overhead, and we certainly can’t have a situation where a screwdriver, a ratchet or a wrench fell and went through somebody’s windshield. It could pose a serious safety issue,” Boyle said. 


Workers use a lift to work on the Crescent City Connection bridge over the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Photo by Sophia Germer, The Times-Picayune)

The $21 million project is designed to dress up the 76-year-old bridges with programmable lights that City Hall will control. They will replace an earlier set of lights, first installed in 1987, and should be ready for when hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive in New Orleans in February for the Super Bowl.

The old lights started blinking out in 2013, the same year that tolls on the east bank-bound side were eliminated, leaving no funding source for maintenance. The bulbs went completely dark in 2021 after Hurricane Ida.

“We’re excited for what this will bring to the city. We regard the Crescent City Connection as as a historic, iconic structure along the Mississippi River and the New Orleans skyline,” Boyle said.

Rising costs for the project

The project is being undertaken by Frischhertz Electric Co. and has grown more expensive from the $16.5 million initial cost estimate.

The city agreed to cover half that amount and is doing so with $8.3 million in “road transfer credit,” which is funding that the state provides to local jurisdictions for taking ownership of state roads.


Traffic passes as workers work on the Crescent City Connection bridge over the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Photo by Sophia Germer, The Times-Picayune)

In this case, the city received the credit for taking over seven miles of Hayne Boulevard. In addition to receiving credit to cover its portion of the bridge lighting project, city officials say local control of Hayne Boulevard will help facilitate the Lincoln Beach redevelopment project which is located on a stretch of that road in New Orleans East.

The increased cost is the result of higher-than-expected bids, and the state will make up the difference, Boyle said.

The city will own and control the lighting infrastructure, including the programmable displays. The electricity cost is estimated at $50,000 to $80,000 annually, he said. 

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