A Look Back: When Was the Speed Limit Lowered on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge?
With all of the talk recently about speeding fines on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge now being doubled since August 1st, it got me wondering: Was the speed limit ever lowered and, if so, when?
What's become known as the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge Bill was signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards in June following the Louisiana Legislative Session. SB 435 is a bill that factors driving time into speeding tickets for violators traveling on the Interstate 10 Atchafalaya Basin Bridge.
Senator President Page Cortez's bill would mean that drivers who cross the bridge in less than 18 minutes would receive a speeding ticket in the mail, basing the ticket on how fast it takes a vehicle to get from one end of the bridge to the other instead of the miles per hour the vehicle was traveling. Cameras would track vehicles to see whether they travel across the bridge in 18 minutes or less.
But these cameras have not yet been installed, though. And it looks like they won't be until sometime in 2023. In the meantime, though, you can expect Louisiana State Police troopers and local law enforcement to enforce the law.
Everyone knows the speed limit is 60 miles per hour on the I-10 bridge, 55 mph for 18-wheelers. But, the interstate leading up to the Basin Bridge on both sides has a speed limit of 70 mph. So, it stands to reason that the bridge itself may have had the same speed limit once upon a tme.
Well, you would be correct with that reasoning.
The late Mike Foster served as governor of Louisiana from 1996 until 2004 - two terms. When he took office, the speed limit on the Basin Bridge was set at 70 miles per hour for all vehicles.
During his first term, a series of crashes on the bridge in 1998 left four people dead and 32 people injured, according to The Advocate. Gov. Foster then ordered the speed limit lowered to 60 mph for all vehicles. Then, during his second term in 2003, The Advocate reported an 18-wheeler crashed into a row of cars. Five people were killed, including the driver. So, Gov. Foster ordered a new speed limit for big rigs - 55 mph.
Unfortunately, even with the lowering of the speed limit, there are still way too many crashes on the Basin Bridge. Many drivers traveling along the interstate just continue driving at 70+ mph as they pass over the bridge. From road construction projects to lack of speed enforcement to increased traffic, the bridge on I-10 is still considered very unsafe to travel by many.
With the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge Bill now being enforced - although in its early stages - It remains to be seen if camera enforcement of speeding fines being doubled will make the bridge safe to drive going forward.