In September 1951, Modjeski and Masters was engaged by the Louisiana Department of Highways and the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads to investigate and report on the economic location and cost on a new Mississippi River Bridge crossing. The anticipated location was at the then-terminus of the Pontchartrain Expressway at Rampart Street which would connect with the planned West Bank Expressway. Other alternatives, including a tunnel, were included in the investigation.
After completion of the initial investigation, a new and more economical alignment was pursued at Thalia Street on the West Bank to Bringier Street on the East Bank. It was also agreed that it would not be necessary to span the entire length of the river, which further reduced the cost of the project. Modjeski and Masters concluded that the most economical design would be a cantilevered through-truss bridge featuring a main span of 1,575 feet in length. The bridge would also include a vertical navigational clearance of 150 feet. It was estimated that the bridge would cost $52.5 Million and be ready for traffic by the fall of 1958.
Construction commences in 1955 on substructure units for the new Mississippi River Bridge. Shown here is construction progress on Pier A in February 1956.
With major work on the substructure completed, the superstructure work started in August 1956 on the West Bank. Work on the complex structure would continue for two years.
A major project milestone occurred on January 3, 1958 when the cantilevered spans, that were being erected from each side of the river, were connected. This photo shows the beam moments before the connection was made by workers from Bethlehem Steel, the superstructure contractor.
The landmark project was completed and opened to traffic on April 15, 1958. The bridge was officially named the "Greater New Orleans Bridge" and was officially the longest cantilever highway bridge in the world at the time. Today it is the 5th-longest cantilever bridge in the world, at 1,575 feet long.The project also included over 2 miles of approach structures and complex interchanges.
Due to increasing traffic demands, Modjeski and Masters was retained to evaluate various schemes for widening the bridge and approaches. Included in the study was an investigation into the operation and increase in traffic handling capacity for the bridge.
After concluding that the existing bridge could not be sufficiently widened to handle increased traffic in the area, Modjeski and Masters was tasked with designing a twin structure.
The ceremonial start to construction occurred when then-Governor Dave Treen broke a bottle of champagne at the project site. Work on the substructure units for the main span started the next year.
With construction of the main span substructure completed, erection of the main span superstructure commenced. Work would be completed in 1985. Construction progress on the nearly completed cantilevered spans in shown here in 1984.
Construction was completed on the new bridge main span completed in August 1985. Construction would continue on the approach structures and intersections for the next few years.
The New Greater New Orleans Bridge opened to traffic officially on September 30, 1988. The project cost $550 Million to complete. The original span was designated to carry Eastbound traffic and the new structure would carry Westbound traffic. Today, the Crescent City Connection ranks as the fifth most traveled toll bridge in the United States, with the annual traffic volume exceeding 63 Million.
Following a 1989 public contest to select a name for the bridges, a fourth-grade class at St. Clement of Rome School in Metairie submitted the winning name: "Crescent City Connection". A Louisiana Legislative Act officially designated the bridges with this new name.
After completion of the new Westbound Bridge, the Eastbound bridge was closed for repairs. Modjeski and Masters designed various repair details including a new bridge deck.
As of 1993, the repairs and the new bridge deck were completed.
Modjeski and Masters carefully inspected the bridge structures and approaches for damage due to Hurricane Katrina. The results found that the structures were in very good condition with only minor damage to signage.
Modjeski and Masters has been trusted to perform annual inspections and general repairs on both bridges for many years. Most recently, rehabilitation scoping documents were prepared for both bridges. The goal of this project is to perform repairs necessary to extend the life of each structure.