Transportation committee decides I-10 bridge issue

The State Department of Transportation now has direction from local government on how high is high enough for the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge. Today's vote by the Transportation Policy Committee of Imcal allows bridge designers to move forward.

The debate on the height of the bridge has gone on for months all leading up to this day when Imcal's transportation policy committee would meet-- and take a stand. The vote here gets the ball rolling on design of a new bridge and Westlake interchange.

But first the committee heard from attorney Hunter Lundy, representing some who want a 90 foot bridge rather than 73 as recommended by the state. "When we'll spend $12-14 million more on the bridge at Contraband Bayou to preserve recreational traffic, recreational boats for south Lake Charles, why won't we spend $12-14 million more to compromise on a 90 foot bridge that cannot block off economic development."

Concerned citizen Charlie Atherton says a 135 foot bridge is the way to go. "To build a new I-10 bridge less than 135 feet in height to kill shipping, economic development north of I-10 is against federal law, a disservice to the public, an abuse of power by decision makers, and a bad mistake that'll never be corrected."

As expected, committee members voted four to one in agreement with the state's recommendation of a clearance of 73 feet. Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach was the lone no vote. He feels 90 feet would have been a reasonable compromise. "This decision is a hundred year decision. It's a decision that's going to affect this community for years to come. Here's a deep water area that's naturally deep water, and we won't be able to access it because the bridge will be too low."

With the committee's stand state highway officials will move forward with planning and designs so that if and when Congress provides money, Calcasieu will be ready to go.

Officials predict areas whose plans are ready to go are more apt to get funding, if it becomes available.