JEFFERSON, La. - It's been six years and over a billion dollars in the making. Sunday, hundreds gathered to celebrate the grand reopening of the Huey P. Long Bridge after a massive project that's expected to spark new development in Jefferson Parish.
There may have been runners on the Huey P. Long Bridge Sunday as hundreds took part in a 5K to celebrate the completion of a makeover for the bridge. But it's drivers who will benefit from a $1.2 billion widening project that was officially completed.
"This bridge, the construction of this is just a real engineering marvel, and we're just so proud of it to be able to deliver it to the citizens today," said Sherri LeBas, Secretary for the Department of Transportation and Development.
Before the project, the 78-year-old bridge had two notoriously narrow lanes in each direction with no shoulder. Now, there are three lanes each way with an eight foot shoulder.
"It's going to be a much more comfortable ride for motorists as they cross this bridge," said LeBas.
Sunday, a second line helped commemorate the project's completion, along with a parade of classic cars. A few at the celebration remembered when the bridge opened in 1935, and Sunday, they helped cut the ribbon and usher in a new era for the Huey P. Long Bridge.
Officials believe the widened bridge will spark growth in Jefferson Parish, especially for its last remaining undeveloped land between the Harvey Canal and St. Charles Parish line.
"This bridge will be what the Superdome was for Poydras [Street], it will be a catalyst for future economic growth in Jefferson Parish," said John Young, Jefferson Parish president.
"I think it's going to have a huge impact. And we are already seeing business development just while this project's been under construction," said LeBas.
The widening project means twice the number of cars can cross the bridge each day, more than 100,000.
DOTD said the project was finished ahead of time and under budget.