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Preserving the Past While Designing For the Future

Bridge renovations come with many challenges, and when a bridge is of historical significance, those challenges are often multiplied. Historical bridges bring about unique complications and often carry a profound importance for the communities where they stand.

The Huey P. Long Bridge in New Orleans, Louisiana is one such bridge that, in its own right, serves as a landmark. Since opening in 1935, the bridge has been vital to traffic and to the state’s economy. As highway traffic demands in New Orleans have grown, the Huey P. Long bridge has required ongoing maintenance, inspection and widening.

Throughout the work on Huey P. Long, M&M has relied on three key tactics to create efficiencies time and again. These tactics can be applied to almost any historical bridge renovation to save time and costs:

  1. Use original resources to create efficiencies and decrease project costs - Ralph Modjeski, founder of M&M, originally designed the 4.35-mile Huey P. Long bridge. Because of this, and the yearly inspections that M&M has completed for the bridge over the years, we have been able to refer to original notes and records. By relying on original resources, engineers have a more comprehensive understanding of the bridge.
  2. Take advantage of technology advances - Technology continues to advance at a rapid rate, and the technology that is available to bridge engineers today is vastly different than what was available for early engineers. Teams should leverage these advances to extend the life of the structures in a cost and time efficient manner.
  3. Rely on past information, but learn new techniques - There are a number of conventional bridge design and engineering techniques and processes that are widely accepted as best practice. While long-standing practices can be a solution, it does not mean that they are the best or most efficient solutions. When widening the Huey P. Long bridge, M&M found that the traditional method of erecting trusses was not efficient and would negatively impact traffic. Instead of accepting conventional wisdom, M&M worked with contractor MTI (and construction engineer HNTB) to develop an alternative method that did not impact traffic and sped up the construction timeline.   

To learn more about how M&M put these tactics into practice on the Huey P. Long bridge, visit Bridge Design & Engineering. M&M was featured in an article titled ‘Back Story’ in the Third Quarter 2018 issue.

By: Bruce Peterson, PE Senior Associate (Ret.), Buck Ouyang, PE Senior Associate and Michael Beitzel, Senior Engineering Technician at Modjeski and Masters’ New Orleans office