Lower speed limits, stiffer fines in effect for Atchafalaya Basin bridge

Staff Report

Lower speed limits are in effect – along with higher fines – for the stretch of Interstate 10 along the Atchafalaya Basin twin span.

Signs along the 18-mile corridor between Ramah in Iberville Parish and St. Martin Parish near Henderson are part of a three-phase process, in response to Senate Bill 435/ACT 426 that established the Atchafalalya Basin Bridge as a highway safety corridor.

The state Department of Transportation and Development is hoping a reduced speed limit and traffic cameras along the Atchafalaya Basin twin span of  Interstate 10 will reduce the number of traffic accidents, including one that caused a fire on bridge last year.

Speeding remains an issue despite multimedia promotions to warn motorists about the new speed limits, Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi said.

“We’re still writing a lot of tickets,” he said. “

The establishment of this highway safety corridor, which took effect Aug. 1, calls for DOTD to install additional signage on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, to install camera safety devices to monitor vehicles traveling in excess of the posted speed limit, and to issue warnings and citations.

Local police will not be precluded from enforcing traffic laws on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, and any citations issued by a police officer will take precedence over any camera violations.

Even with the new law in effect, motor vehicle violations will be twice the standard fine imposed. Higher fines took effect on Aug. 1.

The first phase consists of installing additional signage throughout this corridor.

Crews will be installing “Higher Fines” signs near the bridge approaches on I-10 at both ends, as well as on the on-ramps at the Whiskey Bay and Butte LaRose exits.

Also, “Safety Corridor” signs will be placed before the bridge approaches to warn motorists of the changes.

Phase 2 consists of placing automated radar feedback signs that display motorists’ speed throughout this 18-mile stretch. These signs are to warn motorists to slow down when traveling too fast.

The “Radar Feedback” signs are currently under design and DOTD anticipates letting this project out for bid by the end of the year.

The third phase will institute placement of cameras that will monitor the speed of motorists. The camera system is still under design, as well as the placement and process of how the department will monitor and enforce these fines.

In 2021, motor vehicle crashes increased statewide, with a total of 971 fatalities, an increase of 17 percent from 2020.

This highway safety corridor will focus on reducing the number of fatal crashes, which often keeps the basin bridge closed to traffic for hours at a time.

The safety cameras will reduce speeding and therefore reduce the speeding differential, which can lead to serious crashes, especially since the bridge has narrow shoulders with little room to recover for those traveling at excess speeds.

All construction activity is weather dependent and may be rescheduled in the event of inclement weather.