CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) - Each time a lane is closed on either of the I-10 or I-210 bridges, it slows the passage of tens of thousands of vehicles. And while rush hour can be dealt with, delays from accidents or breakdowns can cost millions according to economist Dr. Michael Kurth, who is also a professor at McNeese.
"If you can't get to the casinos over the bridge, you can't get to the casinos, period. It's one thing if there's a ten minute delay during rush hour. It's another thing if you've got a two or more hour delay and that's what you're going to see," said Kurth.
"When you have an accident and they're delayed two hours, that creates huge problems for the plants, overtime, safety issues. It creates a big problem for the casinos, because the traffic can't get through there," he said.
Kurth was hired to do a study for the Southwest Louisiana Economic Alliance.
He says if people can't get from West Calcasieu to Lake Charles, they could start going to Beaumont for shopping and medical care.
"Half a million dollars a day of business comes from West Calcasieu to Lake Charles over the 210 bridge, down the I-210 corridor there where you've got the big box stores. They don't even have a movie theater in West Calcasieu, so if the bridge is out you can't go to the movies, you can't go to a restaurant, you can't go shopping at the mall," said Kurth.
What about consumers who fly out of the Lake Charles Regional Airport.
"Are you going to fly out of the Lake Charles airport if you have this kind of traffic? You're going to go to Beaumont. That's the danger we run into. The longer the disruption the greater the cost and it increases exponentially," he said.
Kurth admits the best solution would have been to address infrastructure years ago when mega projects first came to light, but for now he urges efforts to reduce incidents that bring traffic to a standstill.
"While local residents and businesses may take actions to mitigate the cost of anticipated traffic congestion such as rush-hour by leaving home earlier or taking alternate routes, there is little they can do to mitigate the cost of unanticipated traffic disruptions caused by accidents and vehicle breakdowns," said Kurth.
"It is estimated that the closure of two traffic lanes on the I-210 Bridge will increase traffic delays during rush hour by approximate 25% costing local residents and businesses an additional $14,800 a day. Unanticipated traffic disruptions, however, would cost nearly a million dollars an hour and the cost per hour will increase the longer it take to restore the traffic flow. Therefore, preventing unanticipated traffic disruptions is crucial for the economy," said Kurth.
While the time estimate to repair the 210 bridge has been cut from 3 years to 1 ½, Kurth says safety should not be sacrificed for speed of construction.