The Longest Bridge Near New Orleans Has A Truly Fascinating Backstory
If you’re a Greater New Orleans resident, you know the Causeway all too well. It may even be a part of your morning commute. While this impressive bridge may be white noise to locals, it has a fascinating history you may be surprised to learn.
The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, more commonly known as The Causeway, connects Mandeville with Metairie.
The bridge opened in 1956, but the idea for the bridge had been swirling about since the early 19th century when Bernard de Marigny (the founder of Mandeville) had the idea and began a ferry service that operated well into the mid-1930s.
The 1920s were the initial stages of planning out the bridge.
The first draft of the proposal included creating artificial islands over the lake that would link a series of bridges together. The plan was to also build houses on these islands for people to purchase, which would help fund the project.
It wasn’t until 1948 that the bridge we know and love today started to take shape.
Ernest M. Loeb Jr. began lobbying for the project, creating the Louisiana Legislature, which is now known as the Causeway Commission. The Louisiana Bridge Company was formed to construct the bridge, and construction began.
Originally, the Causeway was a single, two-lane bridge that clocked in at 23.86 miles long.
It opened to the public in 1956, and many of you may remember these days. Pretty narrow, nowhere to pull over, and dangerous if you happened to catch a flat or have a breakdown… it was a white-knuckle drive for sure!
It didn’t take long for a second bridge to be built, and it opened in 1969.
The first bridge cost $46 million and the second bridge came in at $30 million.
Since the Causeway has opened, it’s been a toll bridge.
For many years, you’d have to pay a toll ($1.50 each way) on both sides of the bridge. To help with the congestion on the south shore, the tolls in Metairie were removed in 1999 and adjusted to pay $3 on the Northshore side. In 2017, the toll was increased to $5 to help fund improvements to the bridge.
For many decades, the Causeway was listed by Guinness World Records as the longest bridge over water in the world.
And we wore that badge proudly! In 2011, the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in China was built and stripped us of our title. It became quite the controversy, as the bridge in China goes over land at some parts, while the Causeway does not. It was determined that while China’s bridge runs for a total of 26.5 miles, it spans water for only 16.1 miles, while the Causeway spans 23.79 miles, continuously over water. A clear winner, right? Well the folks at Guinness decided to create two categories to make everyone happy. The Causeway holds the title of being the longest bridge over water (continuous) while the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge is the longest bridge over water (aggregate).
Do you remember when there was just one single bridge? How about when they tore down the Metairie tolls? Share your memories with us in the comments!
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Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, Louisiana, USA