METAIRIE, La. -- Test piles will soon be driven near the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway as bridge management works the make the 24-mile span safer.

That work is expected to begin Aug. 28. It’s the start of a $50 million project to build 12 safety shoulders on the two bridges.

The new shoulders will be about 16 feet wide and about four city blocks long.

Carlton Dufrechou, the Causeway’s general manager, said the improvements are meant to decrease the number of rear-end crashes involving disabled vehicles.

Another $40 million project to build higher guardrails on the southbound span is expected to begin soon.

They are expected to prevent overboard accidents on the bridge which now number two to three per year.

Cash tolls on the bridge jumped from $3 to $5 last May. The additional money collected will pay for new, higher guardrails on the older southbound span and 12 safety shoulders installed outside of the bridge's two spans.

About 50,000 cars, trucks and motorcycles cross the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway every 36 hours. There are 10 to 12 breakdowns on the bridge per day with the potential to cause long traffic back-ups.

Paul Murphy can be reached at pmurphy@wwltv.com.