Starting Aug. 1, Louisiana doubles fines on Atchafalaya Bridge
August 1, 2022
A new rule effective Aug. 1 in Louisiana addresses concern about travel along the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge.
Motorists are permitted to travel up to 60 mph along the Interstate 10 span in South Louisiana. Truck drivers are permitted to travel up to 55 mph along the span connecting Lafayette and Baton Rouge. Additionally, trucks are allowed to use the left lane only for passing.
State law authorizes fines of up to $175 for speed and lane use violations. Repeat offenders face up to $500 fines.
New safety corridor
Gov. John Bel Edwards this spring signed into law a bill to designate the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge as a highway safety corridor.
Distinction as a highway safety corridor authorizes double fines for speeding. Offenders would first be issued a warning before they are given a $350 citation for a third offense. Subsequent offenses would result in $1,000 fines.
Double speeding fines are authorized on the bridge starting today.
Fine revenue above the cost of operation would be split between the parishes of Iberville and St. Martin. The 18-mile span is located in the two parishes.
Previously SB435, a second provision in the new law authorizes the use of enforcement cameras to track vehicle travel times.
Shawn Wilson, director of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, said the cameras will not be installed to track drivers’ speed until early next year. Speed enforcement signs are planned to be posted in the coming months.
Additionally, eight sets of speed limit signs are planned to be placed on the eastbound portion of the bridge. Eight sets of signs also are planned for the westbound side.
Six sets of “Trucks Right Lane Only” signs will be equally spaced on the eastbound portion of the bridge. The same number of signs will be posted along the westbound stretch.
Addressing a need
Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, says change is needed to address safety concerns along the span. He said that one year ago there were 269 crashes with 89 injuries and two fatalities.
Cortez said the transportation department will post cameras along the span to time how long it takes a vehicle to travel to certain points along the bridge.
Cameras will be posted at both of the bridge entrances, at the two exits along the corridor, and at the end of the bridge each direction.
Vehicles that reach the points along the bridge at travel rates faster than would be expected for the vehicle and posted speed would be subject to a violation notice.
Cortez has said that something needs to be done to help law enforcement counter the use of mobile apps that alert drivers to where law enforcement vehicles are located.
“Everybody knows where the police are so they just go as fast as they want until they get a few hundred yards from police and they slow down,” Cortez told a House committee. “When they pass them they take off again … It’s pretty much a cat and mouse game.”
He adds that the additional enforcement option is necessary because of limited shoulder space that makes it a safety hazard for state troopers to enforce traffic rules on the bridge.
One concern voiced about travel along the Atchafalaya Bridge focused on enforcement of the truck lane rule.
Wilson said the issue of truck travel is best addressed by placing signs to alert trucks about the left lane restriction.
“I think the best way we can address that … is by law we’re putting six signs up that say trucks are restricted to the right lane, and so I think that will help tremendously,” Wilson previously testified. “I think everybody is going to look at this enforcement corridor as one to treat more seriously and drive responsibly, so I think it will address the trucks that are in the left lane.” LL