Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- A sign warning motorists of Mississippi River Bridge lane closures flashes around 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. The sign heralds 18 months of periodic work the bridge for painting and rust removal.

Traffic problems should be minimal during a $10 million, nighttime paint and rust removal project that is underway on the Interstate 10 Mississippi River bridge, officials said Thursday.

“What we are doing is called spot painting,” said Danny Tullier, bridge preventive maintenance program manager for the state Department of Transportation and Development.

“Portions or zones of the bridge, some of the paint has deteriorated and is falling off,” Tullier said.

The bridge, which opened in 1968, handles about 102,000 cars and trucks per day and is the site of near daily traffic tie-ups on and near the structure.

Lane closures near the bridge shot up 50 percent in July, including stalled vehicles and debris on the road.

Backups for eastbound traffic at the foot of the bridge and near the Washington Street exit are the source of daily tie-ups and controversy on possible remedies.

The project, which is set to take about 18 months, will include lane closures on nights when repairs are being made.

Rodney Mallett, a spokesman for the department, said traffic problems should be minimized because of when the work is done.

None will be done during weekends when LSU or Southern University hosts football games, and holidays also are off-limits.

Generally speaking, the work will take place from 8:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

DOTD advisories, traffic message boards and flashing lights also are meant to ease any backups, Mallett said.

The average daily traffic count during periods when the work is going on was not available.

The work began just as the state starts the second and final phase of a $97 million paint job and structural repairs on the U.S. 190 bridge, best known as the Old Mississippi River Bridge.

That structure, which opened in 1940, includes two lanes on each side for cars and trucks and a rail line in the center.

It handles about 29,000 vehicles per day.

That project began two years ago and is supposed to be finished in fall 2015.

DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas has said she hopes to generate more traffic on the U.S. 190 bridge and less on the I-10 bridge by upgrading the La. 1 corridor between the new and old bridges.

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