LAKE CHARLES, LA. (KPLC) - It's a time when life moved much more slowly in Lake Charles and Calcasieu Parish. There weren't nearly as many cars on the road, and a huge construction project was underway-- the building of the Interstate 10 Calcasieu River Bridge.
It's a landmark so familiar that it's hard to imagine when the I-10 Bridge did not rise above the river linking east with west. Maybe that's why pictures of the bridge being built are so interesting, especially to those who have driven over it a thousand times.
Amazing pictures, forwarded to us by a viewer, show the bridge under construction between 1949 and 1952 when it was finished. Eighty five year old George Bass is a retired engineer who worked for the state highway department for 28 years . He says the pictures were probably taken for the state. "I'm amazed to see these pictures. I believe they were taken by contractor and submitted by the state to show progress taking place each month."
Though he came after the bridge was built he says it was indeed an architectural marvel of the day--and one of the last actually designed in house by state highway engineers. Bass said, "I graduated from '61 from LSU. In the halls of the engineering building the picture of this bridge was on there and it was an award winning bridge."
Frank Pryce was away at college while the bridge was built but remembers how before people had to take the old Highway 90 bridge that crossed from what is now Shell Beach Drive. "You would go down Lakeshore which was Highway 90 and you would go right at the port and go across and hit 90 again and go all the way through to Texas." Pryce admits when the bridge opened there were people who didn't want to drive across it. "Because they didn't want to be up that high and especially at night, with no lights on it." said Pryce. "It's still a controversy."
Bass says it was never built to be part of the interstate system. "There was no interstate at that time. That bridge does not meet interstate standards. The feds asked us to put that bridge in the federal system and we allowed them to do that but they promised that they would build a new bridge later on. Well, it's been a few years and they still haven't built that bridge."
And no doubt those who built it never imagined it would be part of one of the most heavily traveled highways in the nation.
The state plans to replace the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge but progress has been slow for various reasons including underground chemical contamination that could spread if disturbed by construction activities. We'll let you know as there are new developments.