Atchafalaya accidents need sound solution
A multi-vehicle accident last week on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge on Interstate 10 that resulted in one death and five injuries has state transportation officials studying the possibility of lowering the speed limit there. Former Gov. Mike Foster lowered the basin bridge speed limit from 70 mph to 60 mph in 1998 because of a series of accidents. Large truck speed was reduced to 55 mph in 2003.
Shawn Wilson, secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), told The Advocate, “We want to make an informed decision. We are just not sure what that is yet. We are going to look at this particular incident because it is an extreme incident and understand what is the cause of the accident.”
State Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, said, “We have to do better. Whatever we are doing is not working with regards to either to monitoring or speed limits or a combination of all of those things.”
The newspaper said DOTD reported the basin bridge has been the site of 1,183 accidents since 2014, including 13 fatalities. One of the fatalities was a pedestrian. Total accidents rose in 2018 by 12 percent over the previous year, and 30 percent since 2014, on the roughly 17-mile stretch through St. Martin and Iberville parishes.
A State Police preliminary investigation said after an initial crash, westbound traffic slowed for the incident, and then three 18-wheelers and several passenger vehicles were involved in a chain-reaction crash.
Cortez said, “Inevitably, it is 18-wheelers. We need to demand some type of action with 18-wheelers, reduced speed or something.”
Wilson said more time is needed because sometimes lower speed limits could also be the cause of additional accidents. About 55,000 cars and trucks use the bridge daily. Big trucks are already required to stay in the right lane while crossing the bridge.
State Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, and chairman of the House Transportation Committee, was superintendent of State Police when the 1998 accidents occurred and the speed limit was reduced. He said a lower speed had a significant impact on the number of crashes.
Traffic on the basin bridge has gotten heavier over the years. Some motorists familiar with the route have complained that speed limits are not enforced enough, and that results in hazardous driving and dangerous passing habits. Road construction on both sides of the bridge has also increased the number of accidents.
Wilson is probably correct when he says nothing should be done quickly, but we hope everyone involved in making a decision doesn’t take too much time to do something.
Atchafalaya basin bridge