Editor’s note: We’ve received a number of questions about bridges.
The first three involve the U.S. 190 Mississippi River bridge. Indira Parrales, a spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation and Development, provided these answers:
QUESTION: Why was the decision to paint the bridge “battleship ship” rather than the original color of blue?
ANSWER: Some of our research show there is no record of the bridge being painted blue. We also found that in some original plans, specifications and archived project correspondence that the original paint for the U.S. 190 Mississippi River Bridge was aluminum tinted with one ounce of lamp black pigment per gallon of paint for color. During plan development for the current rehabilitation project, it was first suggested to go with a silver color which might have been close to the original. However, it was learned that such a metallic paint would require a clear coat, in addition to the normal top coat to preserve the “sheen”. Unfortunately, those top coats tend to have a short life span. Plus, this top coat would have also added 15 percent to 20 percent to the overall painting cost. Due to these reasons, it was decided to proceed with the standard Louisiana Grey color.
QUESTION: When it opened to traffic in late 1940, the U.S. 190 Mississippi River Bridge was named the “Huey P. Long-O.K. Allen Bridge.” For the past couple of decades, the sign on the entrance ramps read the “Huey Long Bridge.” Will that error be corrected?
ANSWER: While the idea of placing a new sign on the bridge was being considered, recent research results have put a temporary hold on the idea. It was found that a 1938 amendment to the Louisiana Constitution of 1921 declared the bridge at Baton Rouge would be named the “Huey P. Long – O.K. Allen Bridge,” the Louisiana Constitution of 1974 repealed the ruling, leaving the bridge nameless.
QUESTION: The original U.S. 190 Mississippi River Bridge had metal fleur de lis on the guard rails. Is this something that will be brought back during this renovation?
ANSWER: The fleur de lis rail embellishments were removed when the bridge was widened more than 20 years ago. While they provided a nice decorative addition, they did not serve any structural function and would have been a significant cost to replace. The purpose of the current project is to repair and rehabilitate the bridge in order to extend the lifespan for another 50 years. Unfortunately, aesthetic upgrades to the bridge did not fit into the budget.
QUESTION: With all the disruption both financial and nerve-wise,why isn’t each piece of a bridge galvanized before it is put up. Surely a galvanizing plant could be built at the site of each bridge that crosses a major river.
ANSWER: Anastasia Semien, another DOTD spokesperson, tells us: : It would not be practical to set up a galvanizing plant at the project site because galvanizing steel, much like painting, has a limited life span as a protective coating. Galvanizing is also limited to the size of steel member that can be hot dipped.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This column was modified on July 15, 2015, to clarify that it was a 1938 amendment to the 1921 Constitution that mandated the naming of the “Huey P. Long – O.K. Allen Bridge.” The original story mentioned only the 1921 Constitution, which was in effect at that time.