Senator Heitmeier urges changes to improve traffic flowDec 15th, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: Uncategorized
State Senator David R. Heitmeier, O.D., right, discusses a trial period of altering the hours that the Belle Chasse bridge opens for marine traffic with Belle Chasse resident Josette Seifert. The trial period runs Dec. 15 through Jan 17.
Efforts are being made to identify if altering the curfew times in which the Belle Chasse Bridge does not open to marine traffic will improve traffic flow on the congested LA Hwy 23 corridor.
The proposed changes will be tested from December 15, 2011 through January 17, 2012 changing the current morning curfew hours of 6 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. to the new time of 6:30 a.m. until 9 a.m. The afternoon curfew changes from 3:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m., to the new open time of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. At 3 p.m. the bridge will open if there are vessels waiting and at 6 p.m., the bridge must open to allow for the passage of all waiting vessels. At all other times during the day from Monday through Friday, the bridge will only open on the hour between 6:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The trial period is being conducted in accordance with federal guidelines and was prompted by State Senator David R. Heitmeier, O.D. Heitmeier said he was contacted by Mike Ford, Chairman of the Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry and others who asked if altering the times the bridge opens for marine traffic could be tested to improve traffic flow.
“Since I have represented Plaquemines Parish, the number one concern of constituents has been traffic,” said Heitmeier. “As we work on the ultimate fix, which is replacing the bridge and tunnel with a new bridge, we have to look at options to make it as easy as possible for commuters with the existing infrastructure,” he added.
“The feasibility study to replace the bridge has been completed and proposals are being received for the environmental review which is the second step in replacing the bridge. These preliminary steps can be conducted while we search for the dollars needed for engineering, design and ultimately construction of a new bridge,” Heitmeier said.
Parish President Billy Nungesser said Heitmeier’s leadership in getting the Coast Guard to request the trial deviation in openings has been invaluable. “We’ve worked on this for a long time and it’s been Senator Heitmeier’s persistence which has brought together the proper agencies to get this going.”
According to Chief David Frank, Bridge Administration Branch of the U.S. Coast Guard, a plan was devised and will be tested for a 30 day period From December 15, 2011, to January 17, 2012. Frank said the comment period began on November 30, 2011 and will continue through January 31, 2012. The old bridge opening times will revert January 18, 2012. Following closure of the comment period and review, a final determination will be made as to whether the old hours remain or the new times can be permanently implemented.
Written comments from marine and vehicular users of the bridge and all interested parties can be sent as follows: USCG docket Number 2011-0959 by fax at 202.493.2251 or by mail to U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC 20590-0001.