Skip to main content

Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge (Luling, LA)

Located in the western fringes of the New Orleans metropolitan area, the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge spans the lower Mississippi River in St. Charles Parish between the communities of Luling and Destrehan. Completed in 1983, it’s an example of an early-age, primitive cable-stayed bridge designed during a time when this type of bridge was only just beginning to be well-understood and built with any frequency in the United States.

The New Orleans area grew rapidly in the years after World War II, as suburban sprawl encroached on the historically rural river parishes around the city. In response to the development of the region’s Westbank and the emergence of communities in St. Charles and St. John the Baptist Parishes as viable suburban communities during this period, regional planners began to consider the addition of multiple new bridges on the Mississippi River to serve this growing population. One of these bridges planned was intended to connect the east & west banks of the river in the growing western suburbs and was intended to serve as part of the regional freeway system. This new bridge was incorporated into a much larger New Orleans Bypass, sometimes referred to as the “Dixie Freeway”, which was intended to encircle the southern fringes of the metro area and serve as a relief route for the major suburbs of the Westbank. This project was added to the Interstate Highway System in 1968 and the length of the project was designated as Interstate 410. While the construction of this freeway was held up due to environmental and development concerns further east (and was ultimately cancelled in 1977), planning and design work continued for the bridge in St. Charles Parish, with construction beginning in 1976.


This c. 1972 map provided by "roadfan.com" shows the proposed alignment of the southern New Orleans Bypass, known as the "Dixie Freeway" and intended to be signed as Interstate 410. The Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge was planned as the western of the two new Mississippi River bridges intended as part of the plan.

The design of this bridge, which had the working title of “Luling-Destrehan Bridge” during planning, is remarkable and represents a significant step forward in the design of long-spanning bridges. The cable-stayed bridge had been invented in Europe in the 1950s, but it was late to catch on as a viable option in North America. The first bridges of this design type on this side of the Atlantic were built in 1970s and by this time, the design was proving itself to be a less-expensive option for intermediate to long-span bridges than its rival steel truss or conventional cable suspension designs. The cable-stayed design of this bridge sets it apart from all the other bridges on the Mississippi River and it’s become this author’s favorite bridge on the length of the river due to its futuristic appearance and utility. Including its lengthy approach viaducts on each riverbank, the bridge is nearly two miles long. Its central cable-supported main span totals 2,200 ft long, with its longest span being 1,230 ft. The main span is supported by 72 stay cables that fan outward from its pair of 400 ft tall towers and are clustered in groups of two or four cables. This method of support creates a minimalist visual that at first glance seems dangerously insufficient yet is perfectly safe and intentional. The bridge’s roadway consists of four freeway lanes with full interstate-width shoulders and reaches a crown at a height 160 ft above mean river level.

The bridge opened to traffic on October 6, 1983, after more than seven years of construction at a cost of $135 million. Its opening represented the completion of the first segment of the new freeway corridor planned to connect Interstate 10 and Airline Highway (US 61) near New Orleans International Airport with the US Highway 90 corridor near Boutte. In the aftermath of the cancellation of the I-410 New Orleans Bypass in 1977, the western leg of the project was revived and rebranded as I-310 to serve this purpose later that year and the bridge’s approaches and connecting interstate were built in stages, reaching final completion in 1993. While the bridge has served its purpose well over the last 40 years, the structure has been problematic from a maintenance standpoint. The bridge’s steel towers were found to be rusting faster than anticipated, due in part to the high humidity of the Louisiana climate and inadequate dehumidification systems inside the towers. More recently, the bridge’s stay cables needed to be replaced in a project undertaken in 2009 due to advanced deterioration caused by the failure of their protective coating intended to protect against corrosion. 


The cable-stayed design of the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge was among the first such bridges in the United States and its success led to the construction of similar bridges across North America in the following 40 years.

Construction of the bridge had only recently begun when in the early morning of October 20, 1976, the ferry boat George Prince carrying 96 passengers between Luling and Destrehan was rammed and sunk by a passing freighter the Frosta. 78 people perished in the sinking, and it remains the deadliest ferry disaster in U.S. history. This tragedy led to sweeping changes in U.S. maritime law. In the investigation following the disaster, it was determined that the ferry’s pilot had been drinking and likely experienced significant impairment at the time of the collision. As a result, stricter laws were implemented for all maritime pilots & captains, including the introduction of regular drug & alcohol testing. Furthermore, right-of-way regulations on the Mississippi River were changed. Prior to the disaster, there were no clear rules governing which vessels had the right-of-way in the event of up & downriver traffic encountering cross-river traffic of any kind. The new rules govern that cross-river traffic must yield to traffic passing along the river, thereby eliminating the chance of conflict.

The George Prince disaster continues to reverberate across southern Louisiana today. In 2009, a public memorial dedicated to the memory of the victims was unveiled in Destrehan under the east bank approach to the bridge. The memorial wall lists the names of the 78 lives who were lost. The Luling-Destrehan Ferry service ended in 1983 upon the opening of the nearby bridge and other ferry services along the lower Mississippi were ended in the subsequent years as this mode of transport was supplanted by additional bridges and a shift in public sentiment.


A public memorial commemorating the lives lost in the George Prince ferry disaster is located near the bridge on the east bank (Destrehan) side of the river.

This bridge is named after U.S. Congressman Hale Boggs, who served the state of Louisiana in this role for 28 years beginning in 1941 and from 1947 until his death in a plane crash over Alaska in October 1972. At the time of his death, he was House Majority Leader and had previously served on the Warren Commission following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Among his greatest contributions were his support of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (which was atypical of most southern representatives at the time) and he was a strong supporter of the legislation that was ultimately passed as the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which opened the door for modern road & freeway transportation in Louisiana and nationwide. 


Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr. (1914-1972)

The following photos from my visits to the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge showcase various vantage points from ground level on the west bank Mississippi Riverfront in Luling, LA. The Westbank Bridge Park on River Road (LA Highway 18) is an excellent public viewing area for this bridge. Click on each photo to see a larger version.

The following photos from my February 2023 visit to the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge showcase the northbound crossing of the bridge from Luling to Destrehan. Click on each photo to see a larger version.

The following photos from my February 2023 visit to the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge showcase the southbound crossing of the bridge from Destrehan to Luling. Click on each photo to see a larger version.

The following aerial photos from my February 2023 and February 2024 visits to the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge showcase various views of the bridge and its surroundings along the Mississippi River. Click on each photo to see a larger version.



Dashcam video of the northbound drive over the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge was filmed in February 2023 for the 'roadwaywiz' YouTube channel and is available for viewing at the link below:

Dashcam video of the southbound drive over the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge was filmed in February 2023 for the 'roadwaywiz' YouTube channel and is available for viewing at the link below:

The Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge was featured in the "Bridges of the Lower Mississippi River" webinar on the 'roadwaywiz' YouTube channel, beginning at the 2:09:02 mark:

How To Get There:


Further Reading & Sources:
Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge by John Weeks

Bridges, Crossings, and Structures of the Lower Mississippi River
Next Crossing upriver: Veterans Memorial Bridge (Gramercy, LA)
Next Crossing downriver: Huey P. Long Bridge (New Orleans, LA)
Nearby Flood Control Structure: Bonnet Carre Control Structure (Norco, LA)
Return to the Bridges of the Lower Mississippi River Home Page
__________________________________________________

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Paper Highways: The Unbuilt New Orleans Bypass (Proposed I-410)

  There are many examples around the United States of proposed freeway corridors in urban areas that never saw the light of day for one reason or another. They all fall somewhere in between the little-known and the infamous and from the mundane to the spectacular. One of the more obscure and interesting examples of such a project is the short-lived idea to construct a southern beltway for the New Orleans metropolitan area in the 1960s and 70s. Greater New Orleans and its surrounding area grew rapidly in the years after World War II, as suburban sprawl encroached on the historically rural downriver parishes around the city. In response to the development of the region’s Westbank and the emergence of communities in St. Charles and St. John the Baptist Parishes as viable suburban communities during this period, regional planners began to consider concepts for new infrastructure projects to serve this growing population.  The idea for a circular freeway around the southern perimeter of t

Hernando de Soto Bridge (Memphis, TN)

The newest of the bridges that span the lower Mississippi River at Memphis, the Hernando de Soto Bridge was completed in 1973 and carries Interstate 40 between downtown Memphis and West Memphis, AR. The bridge’s signature M-shaped superstructure makes it an instantly recognizable landmark in the city and one of the most visually unique bridges on the Mississippi River. As early as 1953, Memphis city planners recommended the construction of a second highway bridge across the Mississippi River to connect the city with West Memphis, AR. The Memphis & Arkansas Bridge had been completed only four years earlier a couple miles downriver from downtown, however it was expected that long-term growth in the metro area would warrant the construction of an additional bridge, the fourth crossing of the Mississippi River to be built at Memphis, in the not-too-distant future. Unlike the previous three Mississippi River bridges to be built the city, the location chosen for this bridge was about two

Memphis & Arkansas Bridge (Memphis, TN)

  Like the expansion of the railroads the previous century, the modernization of the country’s highway infrastructure in the early and mid 20th Century required the construction of new landmark bridges along the lower Mississippi River (and nation-wide for that matter) that would facilitate the expected growth in overall traffic demand in ensuing decades. While this new movement had been anticipated to some extent in the Memphis area with the design of the Harahan Bridge, neither it nor its neighbor the older Frisco Bridge were capable of accommodating the sharp rise in the popularity and demand of the automobile as a mode of cross-river transportation during the Great Depression. As was the case 30 years prior, the solution in the 1940s was to construct a new bridge in the same general location as its predecessors, only this time the bridge would be the first built exclusively for vehicle traffic. This bridge, the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge, was completed in 1949 and was the third