Bill targets speeders on Atchafalaya Basin Bridge

Staff Report

A proposal by state Senate President Page Cortez would implement much stiffer fines for speeders along the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge.

Senate Bill 435, authored by the Republican lawmaker from Lafayette, would increase fines five-fold if the measure gains legislative approval and a signature from Gov. John Bel Edwards.

A state legislative proposal promotes stiffer fines for speeders along the Atchafalaya Bridge, which has been a haven for traffic accidents, including one from January in which a truck driver struck a Iberville Sheriff’s Office vehicle.

Fines currently range from a maximum of $175 for a first offense and upward of $500 for offenses thereafter.

Cortez’s proposal would spike the benchmark from a maximum of $875 for the first ticket, to $2,500 for subsequent citations.

It would also provide eight additional sets of speed limit signs spaced equally on the eastbound and westbound bridges.

The bill would require signage indicating trucks can only travel in the right lane.

Statistics from state Department of Transportation and Development show that more than 750 accidents have occurred on the 18-mile artery since 2019, including nine fatalities.

A total of 276 accidents and two deaths were reported in 2021.

Thus far this year, 41 accidents – 13 with injuries – have occurred along the elevated roadway.

Many of those accidents have occurred near the Whiskey Bay area, along the westernmost portion of Iberville Parish. 

Sheriff Brett Stassi said he welcomes any legislation that curtails accidents and saves lives, but the Atchafalaya is far from being the only dangerous area along I-10.

While the Atchafalaya is dangerous because of the speed and a small shoulder, other areas are just as hazardous, he said.

“Look at Interstate 10 at Highway 415 in Port Allen … they’re calling that area ‘The Devil’s Triangle,’” Stassi said. “You have areas along College Drive and Perkins in Baton Rouge where vehicles are flipping.

“I don’t know if it will pass, but we’re happy with anything that will help save lives,” he said.

The speed limit is 60 miles per hour for cars and 55 for trucks. Cortez said the speeding also makes it tougher for emergency crews to respond to accidents.