U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta announced Thursday.
Repairs were accelerated thanks to a flexible contract with incentives that rewarded early completion and discouraged missing project deadlines, said Mineta. The secretary noted that the department’s Federal Highway Administration assisted Louisiana streamline the contracting process for the Twin Spans reconstruction, allowing work to begin as soon as possible after Katrina.
“We cut red tape and provided the flexibility needed to get the Twin Spans reopened ahead of schedule so people could get to work, shipments could make it to stores and hope could return to the hearts of Gulf Coast residents,” said Mineta. “Restoring roads, bridges and transit systems is the best way to get the region back up and running again.”
Last year, Mineta provided $25 million from FHWA’s emergency relief program as a down payment to Louisiana for repairing I-10 and other federally-supported highways and bridges damaged by Katrina. Congress recently approved the Bush Administration’s request for additional emergency relief funds for Gulf Coast rebuilding, providing $2.75 billion for road repair in states that suffered during the 2005 hurricane season.
“We worked with Louisiana officials to speed the repairs, restore a commercial link to New Orleans and fulfill the President’s commitment to cut through bureaucratic hurdles to the Gulf Coast’s recovery,” said acting Federal Highway Administrator J. Richard Capka.
Capka, Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry drove across the bridge from Slidell to New Orleans Thursday morning, inspecting the final phase of repair work and the prefabricated bridge sections used to expedite reconstruction. The first phase of repairs reopened the east span to two lanes of traffic on Oct. 14, only 47 days after its destruction by the hurricane.