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John A. Weeks III
Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 7:48:33 PM CDT
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
John James Audubon Bridge
LA-10 Mississippi River Crossing At New Roads
New Roads, Louisiana

John James Audubon Bridge

• Structure ID: 616300000610292.
• Location: River Mile 262 (Estimated).
• River Elevation: 10 Feet.
• Highway: LA-10.
• Daily Traffic Count: 2,887 (2012).
• Bridge Type: Cable Stayed Steel Girder.
• Length: 12,883 Feet Overall, 1,583 Foot Main Span.
• Width: 75 Feet, 4 Traffic Lanes.
• Navigation Channel Width: 1,463 Foot Clear Channel.
• Height Above Water: 121 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened May 5, 2011.
In 1989, the Louisiana State Legislature realized that they were going to have to make some significant improvements in their transportation infrastructure if the state was to remain competitive in the year 2010. To meet the challenge, they established the TIMED program, which took a 4-cent per gallon tax on every gallon of fuel and oil that was sold in the state. This money was set aside to pay for major projects that would otherwise not be funded. The program is slated to raise over $4-billion during its lifetime.

The John James Audubon bridge connects New Roads, Louisiana, with Saint Francisville, Louisiana. The project includes this 2.44-mile long cable stayed bridge and approximately 12 miles of 2-lane highway. The cost was originally projected to be about $350-million with a mid-2010 completion date. The project kicked off a little later than planned, and ended up costing about $410-million.

Nearly everything about this project is big. The bridge features 12,883 feet of elevated roadway including a 1,583-foot long clear span. That span makes this a world-class bridge, and the longest such bridge in the United States. The west approach consists of 15 spans covering 2,044 feet. The east approach has 80 spans and covers 6,780 feet. The main bridge structure is 3,186 feet long, with 5 spans, three of which are suspended by 136 stay cables from two 520 foot tall towers. Each tower is supported by 42 drilled shafts that extend 180 feet into the riverbed. The tower bases are 160 feet wide by 64 feet long and weigh 5,000 tons.

The traffic deck carries 4 lanes of traffic in 11-foot wide lanes. Each roadway includes an 8-foot wide outside shoulder and a 2-foot wide inner shoulder, for an overall deck width of 75 feet. The approach roads are only two lanes, so the second lane in each direction is blocked off at each end of the structure. Bicycles are allowed to use the shoulders on the bridge, through there are no dedicated bicycle lanes or pedestrian walkways.

Despite the project covering over 12 miles, the price is very reasonable. As a comparison, the new I-35W bridge in Minneapolis cost $300-million, but has a river span that is only 1/3 as long. After a year of operation, the bridge was carrying an average of 2,887 vehicles per day, about half of the pre-construction projections. The bridge was expected to spur economic development, but so far, there have been no projects that have been identified as having been built because of the bridge. However, the recession is likely a big factor on both counts, and as the economy improves, there will be new development due to the bridge being in place. For example, the logging industry in the area now has access to the other side of the river, which will grow traffic as wood demand picks up with the rebound of the housing industry.

The main deck steel was completed on December 29, 2010. The bridge was not expected to open until 2012. However, a large flood threatened to shut down the ferry operation in 2011. The bridge was far enough along that two lanes of traffic could be safely opened, so traffic was allowed on the bridge starting May 5, 2011, at which time, the ferry operation was permantently suspended. Construction wrapped up on February 27, 2012.

The Audubon Bridge has 65-feet of clearance under the main span according to US Army Corps of Engineers river charts. However, that number is at high flood water level, where the river is nearly 50 feet above its average level. At average levels, where the river level is between 10 and 20 feet above sea level, the bridge deck is around 120 feet above the water. Bridges with that kind of clearance are normally built for ocean going ship traffic, but this bridge is north of the point where ocean going ships travel.

John James Audubon was a naturalist and artist who lived from 1785 to 1851. His work ‘Birds of America’ is a landmark work in both the field of ornithology and as a great work of art. Audubon has inspired nearly everyone who has since gone bird watching or is interested in wildlife art. Thirty-two of his paintings from Birds of America were painted while residing in Saint Francisville in 1821.

The photo above is looking east along the south face of the Audubon Bridge as seen from the top of the levee on the west side of the Mississippi River. The photo below is looking east towards the west approach to the structure. A slight curve in the road allows us to look directly down the center of the bridge deck without having to step onto the highway. As you scroll down this page, we will visit some local scenes around the bridge, then cross the bridge heading westbound, check out the approach spans, and then finally take a close look at the main span. Unfortunately, trees block any profile views of the bridge.


John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are views of the Audubon Bridge as seen from along the side of the connector road that runs between LA-10, which crosses the bridge, and LA-981, the road that runs along the west bank of the Mississippi River. The photo above is a telephoto view from about a half-mile away, while the photo below is from about a quarter of a mile from the levee. These photos were taken at about 11 AM, meaning that the sun was east of the river, putting the towers and bridge piers in a shadow from these vantage points.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
The photo above is the bridge name sign on the east end of the structure. It is a very nondescript sign for such a monumental structure. The photo below is a guide sign on the connector that runs between LA-10 and LA-981. New Roads is about 3 miles west of this location, while St. Francisville is about 6 miles from the east end of the structure.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
A controversy developed over the bridge name in 2011 when a bill was proposed to the Louisiana Legislature to change the bridge name to ‘Generals John A. Lejeune-Robert H. Barrow Bridge.’ The argument was that Audubon only spent a short period of time in Louisiana, and there was already a bridge named after Audubon on the Ohio River. The two generals were from the local area and both rose to serve as Commandant of the US Marine Corps. In the end, the bridge was not renamed, but the approaches were named after the two generals. The photo above is the sign for General John A. Lejeune on the west approach, while the photo below is the sign for General Robert H. Barrow on the east approach.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
Equipment still remained on site when I visited in early 2013 despite the bridge having been open for nearly 2 years. The red items are part of tower crane that was used to erect the 520 foot tall main bridge towers. The pipes are left over forms for the casings used to support the towers. The photo above is a view of the equipment yard as seen from the top of the levee, while the photo below is a view of the tower crane sections as seen from the highway.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are more views of tower crane sections. The photo above shows the jib that sits at the very top of the tower crane. I am not sure where the piece in the photo below fits. It might be the support that holds the cab to the tower crane.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
The photo above is another view of the equipment yard. This steel is leftover from the project where it was used as temporary supports. The photo below is the Big Cajun II powerplant located just north of the Audubon Bridge on the west side of the Mississippi River. This three unit powerplant generates over 1,400 megawatts of electricity.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos, and the 12 that follow, show a typical crossing of the Audubon Bridge heading westbound towards New Roads, Louisiana. The photo above is the east end of the bridge, while the photo above shows the bridge deck just after we have entered the east end of the structure. Note that while the approach roads have two lanes, the bridge itself has four lanes. If future traffic warrants an upgrade, the approach roads can be expanded to four lanes.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos continue our westbound bridge crossing. In the photo above, we are rounding the curve at the east end of the bridge, and we get our first view of the bridge towers. In the photo below, we are about halfway across the spans of the 1.2-mile long east approach.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos continue our westbound bridge crossing. In the photo above, we are climbing the small grade leading to the main suspended bridge spans. We are just passing the first set of stay cables on the photo below.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos continue our westbound bridge crossing. In the photo above, we are nearing the east main bridge tower, while in the photo below, we have just passed the east main bridge tower.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos continue our westbound bridge crossing. In the photo above, we are nearing the center of the main bridge span, which is marked with the sign indicating tha twe are entering Pointe Coupee Parish. We are passing the midpoint of the main bridge span in the photo below.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos continue our westbound bridge crossing. In the photo above, we are passing the west main bridge tower and the final set of stay cables at the west end of the bridge. In the photo below, we are exiting the actual cable stay bridge structure and crossing onto the west approach spans.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos conclude our westbound bridge crossing. In the photo above, we are descending the approach spans on the west end of the bridge to get back to dry land. We see that traffic narrows down to a single lane at the end of the bridge. The photo below is the highway heading towards New Roads, Louisiana. The intersection ahead is the access road that connects to LA-981, which runs along the levee to provide access to the Big Cajun II generating plant.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are views heading eastbound into the bright morning sun. The photo above is approaching the west end of the structure. This shows that the west approach spans cover a much shorter distance than the east approach spans. The photo below is descending the grade leading away from the cable stay bridge structure down to the east approach spans. The curve at the east end of the bridge is visible in the distance.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These are two additional views heading eastbound across the Audubon Bridge. The photo above is the curve in the east approach spans near the east end of the bridge. The photo below is the LA-10 approach road heading eastbound towards highway US-61. The bridge ahead is known as ‘Bridge 4,’ which is one of 10 total bridges built for the project. This includes two highway bridges west of the river, 5 east of the river, two approach bridges, and the main cable stayed structure.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are views from the right-hand side of road at the east end of the Audubon Bridge. The photo above shows the highway as it enters the east approach spans. The photo below is a view looking along the north side of the east approach spans, with the bridge sign in the center of the photo.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are views from the left side of the road at the east end of the Audubon Bridge. The photo above shows the eastbound lane as it exits the east approach spans. The photo below is a view looking west along the south side of the east approach spans. It is nice to see so much green vegitation despite these photo being taken in March, and there still being feet of snow on the ground in my hometown of Minneapolis.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
The photo above shows an access trail running along the south side of the east approach spans. I would have liked to have hiked along this trail, but I was pressed for time during my visit. While the trestle bents (piers) are short at this location, the ground does drop in elevation towards the river, and the road is higher above the ground. The photo below is some notes written on the side of one of the type 3 prestressed concrete girders.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are views of the east bridge abutment. Note the deep blue sky when looking to the north, with not a cloud in the sky. This is ideal bridge hunting weather, especially when it is a little colder and the snakes are not active.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are the last two views from the east end of the Audubon Bridge. The photo above is the shock-absorbing guardrail that protects the center divider of the bridge. The photo below is a close view of the rumble strip that runs along the outside of the white lines on the approach roads leading to the bridge. These indents were cut using a rumble strip grinder. A single grinder machine can cut between 5 and 15 miles of rumble strip per day.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are views of the approach spans on the west end of the Audubon Bridge. The photo above is from ground level as seen from along highway LA-981, while the photo below is a view from the top of the levee, both looking to the northwest. The west approach is 2,044 feet long and consists of 15 spans. The first 7 spans are shorter and use lighter prestressed concrete girders. The next 4 spans use larger prestressed concrete girders. The final 4 approach spans use steel girders.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
The photo above is pier #11 on the west end of the structure, where the spans transition from concrete girders to steel girders. The photo below is a closer view of the top of the pier as well as the girders. These transition areas often lead to future maintenance issues, but in this case, great care was taken to channel runoff water away from the steel girders. In addition, the ends of the steel girders were coated with a rust inhibitor to prevent oxidation.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are additonal views of the west approach spans as seen from the top of the levee. The photo above shows most of the approach spans, while the photo below is from a wider angle showing first steel girder span plus the span crossing highway LA-981.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
The photo above is looking north towards the steel girder approach span that carries the Audubon Bridge over highway LA-981 and the levee that runs along the Mississippi River. The photo below is another view of this span, looking northeast from the connector road that runs between LA-981 and LA-10, the highway that passes over the bridge. Note that a concrete cap covers the levee where it passes under the bridge.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are the bridge piers on the west end (above) and east end (below) of the west approach span #13, which passes over highway LA-981 and the levee. The vantage point is again the top of the levee. We see the Big Cajun II power plan in the background of the photo above.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos were taken while standing on top of the levee directly under the Audubon Bridge west approach span #13. The photo above is looking west under the approach spans, while the photo below is looking east under the river crossing spans.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
The photo above is the concrete apron covering the levee on the west side of the Mississippi River. The photo below is looking down from the top of the levee along the concrete apron, as well as a view of the base of pier #13 (counting from the west). Despite how steep the concrete apron is, a lot of vehicles use this apron to gain access to the river. In fact, if you look close, you will see a pickup truck with boat trailer parked to the left of pier #14 at the edge of the river.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
The photo above shows the riprap that is placed around the base of the concrete columns for pier #13. Despite this ground being dry, it has already been under as much as 25 feet of water during the short history of this bridge. The photo below is a close view of the concrete mat leading up to the apron. It was built using interlocking concrete blocks.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are views of the underside of the steel girder approach spans. The deck was formed by placing a layer of steel sheeting over the girders, and then pouring a concrete deck. In the photo above, we see a set of cross-braces that keep the girders from twisting. The photo below is the top of a pier, where the girders sit on high density rubber supports. This allows the bridge to move slightly as it expands and contracts due to temperature changes.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are views from along the edge of the west bank of the Mississippi River. While the Mississippi is noted for being very muddy, the water is actually not as muddy as these photos make it appear. The color is largely a reflection of the trees off of the shallow water. In the photo above, we are looking directly east under the bridge spans, while in the photo below, we are looking east along the south face of the structure, with the west main bridge tower visible at the edge of the main river channel.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are similar to the photo above, but showing the entire west main bridge tower. The photo above is taken from the edge of the river, while the photo below is a view from the top of the levee.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are additional views looking east along the south face of the Audubon Bridge. The photo above is the widest angle where we can still see both bridge towers without the trees getting in the way. The photo below is a wider view, but the trees are blocking the main span and much of the east bridge tower. It is unfortunate that there isn't a location that has a clear view of the main span looking either upstream or downstream.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are views of the 15th and final west approach span as seen from two different angles. Both views are from the top of the west river levee.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are views of the first main structure bridge span on the west end of the cable stayed bridge. The main bridge structure consists of 5 spans. First is a short span supported by concrete piers, followed by a cable suspended span, followed by the main span between the two bridge towers, followed by another cable suspended span, and finally, a short span supported by concrete piers. The photo above is a close view of the transition between the steel girder spans and the main bridge, while the photo below is a nice view of that shorter main bridge span where it transitions being cable suspended.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are close views of the top of the bridge piers at either end of the short main bridge structure span that is not cable suspended. These photos are difficult to take since the underside of the bridge is very dark, while the top of the bridge is in bright sunlight. Note that the main bridge deck steel is wider than the approach span steel, and also note the walkway leading down to the top of the pier (in the photo below).

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are close views of the west main bridge tower. The photo above is the top of the bridge tower, which rises to an elevation of 520 feet above sea level, which is generally around 500 to 510 feet above the river level. The photo below shows the concrete crossbrace that is about 325 feet above the river, or about 120 feet above the bridge deck.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are views of the bridge towers as seen looking through the trees from the levee on the west side of the Mississippi River. The west main bridge tower is in the foreground, and the east main bridge tower is in the background.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
The photo above is a close view of the top of the west main bridge tower, again, looking through the trees from the west river levee. There are a total of 136 stay cables on the bridge, with 68 connected to the west bridge tower, 34 per side, or 17 going each direction from each side of the tower. The photo below is a close view of several stay cables just above the bridge deck. The gold color is a plastic cover over the cables that protects the cables from damage.

John James Audubon Bridge
John James Audubon Bridge
These two photos are views of the Saint Francisville New Roads Ferry, taken several years before the Audubon Bridge construction was started. The photo above is a view from the ferry landing looking south towards the location of the future Audubon Bridge. Note the powerplant smokestacks on the right side of the photo, and compare their location to the bridge photos above. The photo below is the ferry boat. The ferry was closed on the day that I visited, which is one of the problems with the ferry system. Another issue is the long and winding road that leads to the ferry landing. The ferry closed for good on May 5, 2011, the same day that the new bridge opened.

John James Audubon Bridge

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