Fact: The Interstate-10 bridge over the Calcasieu River needs to be replaced.
That much everyone in Calcasieu Parish and leaders in state government can agree on. That’s the easy part.
How, when, where and how much … those answers are mired in complicated red tape and theory.
Walter Council, Transportation Planner with Imperial Calcasieu Regional Planning and Development Commission (IMCAL), tried to shed a little light on many facets of transportation planning at the Sulphur Kiwanis Club’s meeting last Wednesday.
Council broached not only the I-10 bridge replacement, but also the planned Interstate-210 bridge project and possible solutions for traffic congestion over the next two decades as Lake Charles and Sulphur continue to lure industry and grow at a rapid rate.
“To get to a new bridge, there are three phases we have to go through,” Council said. “The first one was the project on the I-10 bridge that we’ve already experienced. The second stage is the I-210 project that will last a year and cut the bridge down to two lanes of travel.
“And we know it will cause an impact on traffic. A little bit of pain for a lot of gain, if you will,” Council continued. “The third phase is to have a brand new bridge. Next year DOTD will come up with their record of decision.”
Council explained that a record of decision is all the different alternatives for the new bridge. They will lay out the environmental impact study and all the best solutions for the project. This could take place in May of 2019.
The placement of a new bridge has been discussed ad nauseam. How it will be funded is another obstacle. “More than likely this new bridge will be a tollway. As you know government is not as charitable with its transportation funding as it once was. When you have a project of any size, it’s ordinarily going to be an 80-20 split with funding — 20 percent being local,” Council said. “But … when you have a mega project, like this one, it’s probably going to be a 50-50 split. Because of that, more than likely it will have to be a tollway.”
With the rate the Lake Area is growing and drawing industry, it won’t only be the I-10 bridge that will be a large change as far as transportation is concerned. One question raised at the meeting was whether or not an eventual second loop off I-10 will be feasible to alleviate traffic from Sulphur to Lake Charles and back.
Council mentioned that a second loop has been discussed in meetings — both a north loop in the Westlake-Moss Bluff area and a south loop coming into Carlyss.
Apparently, the more plausible option would be a south loop due to the wetlands in the north. Although, a south loop from Carlyss to Lake Charles would involve designing a third bridge across the Calcasieu Ship Channel.
Then there is having a technological vision of the future. Since part of what IMCAL addresses is a 25-year plan, Council posed the question as to what public transportation will look like in a few decades.
Texas has already been designated as a possible location for a hyperloop high speed capsule travel. The Texas Triangle loop would be a 640-mile system that would connect Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. There are currently 10 proposals in the works by a Los Angeles based company, Hyperloop One. In theory, passengers would be able to travel from Dallas to Houston in 90 minutes — in a pressurized tube at nearly 500 to 600 mph.
“They are undertaking a feasibility study for the Hyperloop now,” Council said. “Think about when you go to the bank and you use the vacuum tube to transport. Imagine a horizontal vacuum tube with a shuttle traveling through this tube.”
Council brought up the Hyperloop study as an example of how technology and resources are being utilized to solve travel and traffic issues. “This is next door to us,” he said. “It has to pique your interest. Think about … it’s happening there. Who knows 20 to 30 years from now, what could happen to Lake Charles.”