METAIRIE, La. -- The Texas A&M Transportation Institute team bolted thick metal beams to the concrete on the original Causeway bridge. The posts are designed to support heavy duty railings to keep vehicles from plunging over the side during an accident.
'When a vehicle hits it, obviously we don't want to see any deformation, or damage to the rail,' said team leader Dr. William Williams. 'We want to see the vehicle contained or redirected, not go through or over the rail.'
The original Causeway bridge, now the southbound side, is 58 years old and only has decorative railings. After a series of accidents where vehicles went over the side, Causeway leaders want stronger barriers for today's bigger vehicles.
'What's happened in the past 20 years is we've switched, society, to personal SUVs to small trucks,' said Causeway General Manager Carlton Defrechou.
Today the Texas A&M team tested the strength of the support posts. At 27,000 pounds of pressure, there was a crack. The post was OK. The bridge concrete cracked.
'This rail would perform very well for the latest design specifications under MASH,' said Williams. 'It will save lives, that's exactly right.'
'What's failed has not been the new post, but the old bridge section,' added Dufrechou. 'So they're actually stronger than the existing barriers we have on the Causeway today. I'm very, very impressed with what's happened so far.'
The Texas A&M team will take the data they learn from these tests back to Texas, work on the final design for the entire railing and then they'll test that.
They'll crash cars, even large trucks, to test the new railings in Texas later this year.