Finger out of joint: Damaged metal to blame for bridge shutdown

Published 4:13 pm Friday, June 21, 2024

The Lake Charles office of the Department of Transportation and Development was not able to say exactly what caused the problem that necessitated emergency repairs of the Interstate 10 Calcasieu River Bridge on June 11 – and they didn’t speculate.

It was confirmed the issue was reported quickly by a woman who crossed the bridge and noticed a piece of metal sticking up and called the Westlake Police to report it. Westlake Police reported it to State Police.

The piece of metal sticking up was a finger joint that made up an expansion joint. After the bridge was closed for several hours, the finger joint was repaired.

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“Because the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge has so many different moving parts, it is difficult to pinpoint or identify one specific issue that caused the expansion finger joint to become dislodged,” said John Guidroz, DOTD spokesperson District 7. “Just like with your car or appliance, parts can break for many different reasons.”

The emergency repair created traffic congestion, frustration, and if social media posts represent the public mindset, a real concern. Just how safe is a bridge that has to be shut down for repairs without notice?

In April, the bridge was at the top of a list of 14 bridges in the nation that have had their structural elements rated in “poor” condition after federally mandated inspections, according to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration InfoBridge database as reported in an online Bloomberg article in April.

Guidroz said as part of the federal bridge inspection effort, every bridge in the state is inspected at least once every two years, and some as many as once every six months.

“The most recent inspection report conducted in December 2023 indicated that the steel finger joint connection was intact,” Guidroz said.

Lanes were reopened on June 11 once it was determined that the conditions were safe for travel. DOTD would not open any lanes of the bridge if officials determined there were any conditions of safety concerns, Guidroz said.

He said the bridge will next be inspected in December.