Atchafalaya Basin Bridge speeders may be timed by cameras in the future

A bill that would increase speed enforcement through camera surveillance on one of Louisiana’s most treacherous bridges moved closer to final passage on Monday.

Republican Senate Speaker Page Cortez’s Bill 435 would create a “traffic safety corridor” on the 18-mile Interstate 10 Atchafalaya Basin bridge connecting Lafayette and Baton Rouge, increasing signage, installing cameras and doubling fines .

“I spent 15 years at the (Capitol) and I’ve never introduced a bill that’s gotten as much attention as this one,” said Cortez, who walks the bridge almost daily on his commute between his home in Lafayette and Baton Rouge.

Cortez’s bill, which has already been approved by the Senate, is now before the full House for debate.

He said reckless speeding and distracted driving created too many crippling and sometimes fatal crashes in the hallways.

“Too many people are being hurt and killed for us to do nothing,” Cortez told USA Today Network in a previous interview. “We need to create a safety corridor with different rules than those that exist on a regular highway.”

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In 2021, there were 269 crashes that resulted in 89 injuries and two fatalities, more than double the number of crashes a decade ago, the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development said. Shawn Wilson.

“What this will ultimately save is lives,” said Wilson, who testified in support of the bill and also commutes from his home in Lafayette.

Wilson and Cortez attribute the spike to increased speed and distracted driving with cellphones. The two said motorists are more likely to speed over the bridge because they know there are no safe shoulders for police to pull over and monitor speeds in person.

“If you park police units in certain places, they’re within 18 inches of an 18-wheeler, which puts them over the edge,” the Senate speaker said.

Cortez’s bill would double speeding fines and use camera technology to catch speeders on the bridge. The speed limit would remain at 55 mph for commercial trucks and 60 mph for other vehicles.

Drivers caught speeding would first receive a notice, followed by a warning for the second offense and a fine for the third and subsequent offenses.

About 80,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Louisiana Network. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1

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