From tornadoes to hurricanes to tropical storms, the federal government plays an important role in helping communities prepare, respond, and rebuild in times of crisis or natural disaster. One example is the Gulf Coast region, which has undergone an extraordinary recovery since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in 2005.
On Thursday, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez joined Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Mayor Mitch Landrieu for the ribbon cutting of the I-10 Twin Span Bridges, one of the largest public works projects in Louisiana history.
The Twin Span Bridges project marks a significant national milestone in the recovery of the Gulf Coast region after Hurricane Katrina, and New Orleans’ ongoing efforts to rebuild. After the original crossing was shut down following hurricane damage, the Federal Highway Administration committed $800 million in emergency funding to build this magnificent new Lake Pontchartrain crossing, which I'm happy to say was delivered both on budget and ahead of schedule.
The project also improves a crucial evacuation route for city residents. At their crest, the new bridges are 30 feet high, 21 feet taller than their predecessors, significantly increasing their resistance to storm surge. By building these bridges taller and stronger, we make sure they stand ready to serve the community the next time a natural disaster strikes.
In addition, modernizing this crossing created much-needed jobs for the local construction industry. In fact, more than 1,700 men and women worked on the project.
This is exactly what President Obama had in mind last week when he introduced the American Jobs Act to a joint session of Congress. He proposed immediate investments for highways, transit, rail and aviation. This will help us revitalize an infrastructure that now receives a grade of “D” from the American Society of Civil Engineers. It is vitally important to get construction workers back on the job, and even better to get them doing the important rebuilding America needs to remain economically competitive.
As Administrator Mendez said, the new spans are “a masterpiece of American engineering that can help the region start a new chapter.” The I-10 Twin Span Bridges project proves that America can still accomplish great things when we work together.