[StBernard] St. Claude Avenue Bridge operation would shift from port under House measure

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Mar 30 23:10:33 EDT 2010

St. Claude Avenue Bridge operation would shift from port under House measure
By Ed Anderson, The Times-Picayune
March 30, 2010, 7:52PM

The operation of the St. Claude Avenue Bridge over the Industrial Canal in
New Orleans would pass from the Port of New Orleans to the state Department
of Transportation and Development if a Chalmette lawmaker has her way.

The House Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works gave 12-2
approval Tuesday to House Bill 1220 by Republican Rep. Nita Hutter, sending
the measure to the full House for debate.

Hutter said that frequently both the St. Claude span and the Judge Seeber
Bridge, about a half-mile away, are raised at the same time, stranding
vehicular traffic until the two bridges are lowered. She said the Seeber
Bridge is in the "up position" now for repairs through May.

The Dock Board, which operates the port, runs the St. Claude span and the
state transportation agency operates the Seeber Bridge. Hutter said that
frequently there is no communication between the two agencies or the two
bridge operators causing the traffic snarls.

Placing both spans under the Department of Transportation and Development
will result in less "finger-pointing" and accommodate both maritime and
vehicular traffic, Hutter said.

Hutter said when the bridges are open to ship traffic and trains block two
state highways leading into St. Bernard Parish, the Ninth Ward and the
parish are isolated, jeopardizing the health and safety of citizens who need
to get to hospitals in New Orleans.

Her bill would not take effect until July 1, 2011, and would authorize the
five bridge operators now employed by the port to transfer to the
transportation agency, costing it about $200,000 a year more.

Hutter said that "is a small price to pay ... for public safety."

Port lobbyist C.J. Blache asked Hutter and the panel to hold off on the bill
to give the port and the department a chance to "see if there is a better
way to coordinate opening and closing the bridges."

He said that Hutter's bill would still make the port responsible for
liability and maintenance of the 95-year-old St. Claude span while the
department would be responsible for opening and closing it and the Seeber

"We don't think this is a better way," Blache said.

Hutter said that her bill is not perfect but it is "really a solution" to
the lack of communication.

Hutter sidetracked her House Bill 1213 to increase the fines and cut the
length of time that trains can block the two major highways leading into and
out of St. Bernard until she gets more details on fines that have been
collected and tickets issued under existing law.

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