West portal (enters from Texas): Sabine River Bridge at Orange, TX
East portal (enters from Mississippi): Pearl River Bridge east of Slidell
Distance in Louisiana: 274.42 miles
Parishes served (west to east): Calc, JD, Ac, Lafy, St M, Ibv, WBR, EBR, Asc, St J, St JB, St C, Jef, Or, St T
Control Cities: Eastbound – Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Slidell, Bay St. Louis; Westbound – New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Beaumont
The lifeline of Louisiana, Interstate 10 links and serves most of Louisiana’s largest cities, and is by far the state’s busiest and most important highway. Serving local, regional, and cross country traffic, I-10 spends just under 275 of its nearly 2000 total miles nationally in the Pelican State. I-10 comprises the southernmost cross country Interstate highway and is thus a corridor of national importance. A major freight corridor, the truck traffic count on I-10 (especially west of Baton Rouge) is stupendously high. Even so, large sections of I-10 are growing increasingly obsolete in construction and design, and the wear and tear of years of overuse is becoming more acute throughout the corridor.
Interstate 10 enters Louisiana from Texas by crossing the recently reconstructed Sabine River bridge, which is constructed to accommodate 6 lanes if necessary in the future. US 90 is concurrent through this stretch to the first Louisiana exit at Toomey, where it rejoins its historical surface level route. After bypassing the town of Vinton (home of Delta Downs racetrack) to the south and navigating a fairly barren stretch of about fifteen miles or so, the freeway enters the Lake Charles urban area at Sulphur. Industrial interests (mainly petrochemical refineries) line the freeway environs through the Sulphur-Westlake area, and several of the interchanges have been constructed with these interests in mind. Immediately east of Sulphur I-210 splits to the south to provide a quick route to the growing south fringe of Lake Charles. US 90 rejoins the freeway near Westlake and remains concurrent to the east side of the city of Lake Charles.
Rapidly the interstate approaches Louisiana’s most treacherous over-water crossing, the Calcasieu River bridge. Completed in 1952 for US 90, it was very unwisely grandfathered into the interstate route and now poses a nail-biting experience for traffic of all stripes. Narrow lanes, heavy traffic, a steep bridge ascent, and a fragile appearing, antiquated classic-style bridge railing combine to make this functionally obsolete crossing the most feared and loathed of all Interstate bridge crossings in Louisiana.
Once having descended from the bridge, the Interstate (and US 90) enters Lake Charles proper, skirting the north side of the city’s namesake lake. The surprisingly large skyline (for a city of its size) appears directly to the south. The first exit (LA 385) brings one into LC’s historic but near-comatose downtown along a scenic lakeshore route. This is also the best route to the massive and very popular riverboat casinos which prop up what is left of an economy here.
The remainder of I-10’s urban LC route follows a somewhat antiquated and VERY BUMPY alignment through the largely blighted areas of the city’s north side. Adjacent parallel surface streets function as frontage roads and make this segment of Interstate appear somewhat Texan in character. US 90 exits the freeway at Fruge Street as the Interstate makes a sharp curve to the north, then back to the east. US 171 is intersected soon after at a six-ramp cloverleaf, followed by I-210 returning to its parent. After I-210 the city is rapidly left behind and one is immediately thrust back into rural Louisiana.
The long section of freeway between Lake Charles and Lafayette (eastern Calcasieu, Jefferson Davis, and Acadia Parishes) crosses largely unchanging prairie country similar to the Midwest in some appearances – open fields punctured by stands of woods and smaller groves of trees. Rice and cattle are the agricultural mainstays here. Civilization is not far away as the exits are relatively frequent, most basic traveler services tend to be available at many of these, and many towns are readily accessible from the freeway – in order, Iowa (pronounced “I-O-WAY”), Welsh, Jennings, Estherwood, Crowley, Rayne, and Duson. Of these towns Crowley and Jennings are the largest, with two exits apiece serving these communities. The scenery seems boring from the freeway, but is actually quite beautiful when encountered up close on surface roads. US 90, which parallels I-10 a mile or two to the south, provides a good (but slower) scenic alternate in this area. Also, US 165 is intersected near Iowa and provides a short route to Alexandria for Lake Charles originating interests.
The Lafayette metropolitan area is entered when the Interstate crosses the border into Lafayette Parish. I-10 largely skirts the main body of the Lafayette urban area to the north, but the four lane freeway is very busy anyhow and is lined with development largely geared to traveler services. Scott (LA 93 exit) is the first community encountered in the Lafayette region, and is a growing suburb and bedroom community of that rapidly growing city.
Lafayette proper is served by four exits: LA 3025 (Ambassador Caffery Drive), the best route to access the Mall of Acadiana and Lafayette’s retail nexus on the city’s SW side; LA 182 (University Avenue); I-49/US 167 (Evangeline Thruway), and the new Louisiana Avenue interchange on the city’s lightly populated and declined northeast side. Of greatest importance is the I-49/US 167 interchange, a full cloverleaf which serves as that Interstate’s southern terminus (for now). At this point travelers may exit to reach destinations in central and north Louisiana, or south along US 167 (which meets US 90) to New Iberia, Morgan City, and Houma. Confusingly, US 90 does not meet the Interstate here, but the US 90 route diverges from I-10 around here to serve those cities in Louisiana’s southern tier, via the Evangeline Thruway through Lafayette. This route is intended to become an I-49 “southern” extension around the time your grandchildren start driving. By the way, this exit is also the best means to reach downtown Lafayette, which is somewhat removed from the freeway.
Passing the last Lafayette interchange, you leave the city rapidly and return to prairie, but not for long: Breaux Bridge (LA 328) and Henderson (LA 347) are the last exits for a long while. Traveler services abound at these interchanges, and it is recommended that you satisfy any food/petrol/bathroom needs here, as the next services are rather distant.
For at Henderson begins the 19 mile long Atchafalaya Basin elevated viaduct, the first of the long over-water bridges that you are going to become accustomed to as you drive through southern Louisiana. Call box services are available for the length of the bridge, and the speed limit reduces temporarily to 60 MPH for the duration. Why, you ask? The Interstate is busy throughout its length in Louisiana, but the busiest rural sections of I-10 are between Lafayette and Baton Rouge, and about half this traffic makeup is seemingly comprised of tractor trailers. This does not make for a good mix, and accidents along this stretch are frequent. The somewhat constrained nature of the 1973-vintage viaduct only exaberates the situation.
Along the viaduct, there are two high “humps” – one where the freeway crosses the Atchafalaya River proper, and a higher hump where the main river navigation channel is crossed. The freeway narrows in these stretches, so be careful…
Two exits are available along the viaduct, though no traveler services are present: LA 3177 (Butte La Rose), which also accesses a popular state welcome center; and LA 975 (Whiskey Bay), an unsealed road which seemingly serves no purpose…
The viaduct comes to earth at Ramah, though the LA 3000 exit which serves that community offers no services. The next exit, LA 77/Grosse Tete, is crucial. For westbound travelers, these are the last services for 19 miles. For eastbound travelers, these are the only blip of services between Henderson and the other end of a twelve mile exit-less stretch that lies ahead of you.
After passing Grosse Tete, the freeway travels for 12 mind-numbing miles along a heavily wooded stretch of freeway containing no interchanges. As the trees in the median clear and the carriageways become parallel again, one can glimpse for a brief spell a fascinating sight in the distance: the top of the skyscraper Louisiana State Capitol located in downtown Baton Rouge (which is deceptively close to your position) is visible directly in line with the interstate. I do not know if this was part of an intentional design by the highway route planners, but it would seem that way. A similar effect is also apparent on US 190 eastbound to the west of BR.
A frontage road comes to line the south side of the freeway, numerous billboards appear, and it becomes apparent that your trip through desolation is coming to an end. Signs appear promising an exit, and in a few miles the LA 415/Lobdell interchange appears, with its cacophony of traveler services and hotels. For westbound traffic, this exit provides the quick way to US 190 westbound, providing a shortcut to Opelousas and Alexandria which may or may not figure into your travel plans.
The Lobdell exit officially marks the start of the Baton Rouge area, though the environs remain largely rural, with industrial concerns lining the freeway at various intervals. Suddenly a gigantic monster bridge appears behind a curve out of nowhere, the skyline of a large city becomes visible to the northeast behind the tree line, the speed limit drops to 60 MPH, and you realize that Baton Rouge has snuck up on you!!
The massive Horace Wilkinson Bridge crosses the wide Mississippi River, and is a supremely busy and congested lot, with tractor trailers aplenty jostling for position along the freeway carriageway. While not the worst bridge you will encounter on your I-10 Louisiana tour, the 1967-vintage cantilever span is heavily utilized and none the worse for wear. Also factoring into the equation are the treacherous ramps associated with the LA 1 (Port Allen/Plaquemine) interchange which is situated at the bridge’s west base. Amazing views of the Baton Rouge skyline, the port facilities, and the river can be had from here, but if you are driving please pay attention to the road as things can get hairy up there, and accidents (and attendant backups) on the bridge are all too frequent. To make things more enjoyable, along the eastern ascent/decent of the bridge are ramps to and from Nicholson Drive and Highland Road. From eastbound, one or the other of these routes is the best means to reach the LSU campus (depending on your specific destination therein).
The east end of the bridge is anchored by the notorious I-10/110 interchange. When descending from the bridge on eastbound I-10, if you intend to remain on I-10 it is imperative that you REMAIN IN THE MIDDLE LANE. The left lane transitions into the ramp for I-110 north, which is the best means to access downtown Baton Rouge, Southern University, and the Metro Airport. Though the two right lanes pass through the interchange for through traffic, the right lane immediately becomes exit-only for the Washington Street off-ramp immediately after merging with I-110 southbound. That is, I-10 through traffic is effectively consigned to one through lane. (Now don’t say you weren’t warned.) Also be forewarned that all through traffic movement on I-10 through this interchange must navigate EXTREMELY SHARP RAMPS with an advisory speed limit of 35 MPH. The interchange design is more a product of the history of freeway construction in BR than it is intended for modern traffic needs…
Through BR “between the splits”, I-10 utilizes a very old, antiquated 6 lane alignment as it passes through the heart of the developed area. 1960s-era viaducts and bridges can be spied as this very busy and congested freeway, unrelieved by any freeway-grade bypass route, carries traffic from downtown to the sprawling eastern and southern suburbs.
From Acadian Thruway to the I-10/12 split, the freeway was reconstructed circa 2000 and now sports sound walls, additional lanes, and improved signage and lighting. East of College Drive the freeway opens up to a ten lane configuration in anticipation for the divergence of these two critical limited access arteries. The split itself causes few traffic headaches now, due to the reconstruction.
Once past the split, however, I-10 inexplicably reduces to two through lanes each way in a long-obsolete rural configuration as it turns southeast to serve the southern suburban areas of Baton Rouge. Many of BR’s major retail centers and activity nodes lie along this stretch of freeway, though for the most part traffic flows at a reasonable level even during rush hour, with the choke points seemingly at the interchange onramps. Three important arterials intersect the freeway in a three mile stretch – Essen Lane, Bluebonnet Blvd., and Siegen Lane.
The section of freeway from Bluebonnet to Siegen has been vastly reconstructed in a project which wrapped up in 2007. This project added collector/distributor roads, new ramps (including two braided pairs), sound walls, and additional ramps and overpasses for an additional exit to serve the adjacent Mall of Louisiana. The freeway surface itself was expanded to accommodate a future six lane configuration, but for the time being remains striped for four lanes as this section of rebuilt freeway connects to no other six lane segment.
Beyond Siegen Lane the freeway returns to a rural configuration and the speed increases to 70 MPH, but the surroundings become less urban overall (though you are not out of the BR area yet). This begins the New Orleans to Baton Rouge segment of I-10, which parallels the Mississippi River and US 61, passing through largely woodland and swamp. At the Highland Road/Perkins Road (LA 42/427) exit, the Blue Bayou water park can be spotted directly adjacent to the north side of the freeway. On summer weekends the crowds are visibly dense…
Entering Ascension Parish, the freeway appears largely rural and wooded with glimpses of the Ascension prairie here and there, and is configured for rural traffic (and thus progress can be slowed at times), but the scene beyond the freeway is that of unrestrained exurban sprawl (a small sample of which can be seen from the freeway). The Gonzales exit (LA 30) is the key interchange in the area, serving this important satellite city as well as serving as the locus for a growing node of commercial development that includes a newly expanded Tanger Outlet Center, a brand new Cabela’s, and a Home Depot, all very visible from I-10.
Beyond LA 30, the urbanized area is behind the eastbound traveler, and dense woodland broken by the occasional open field is the order of the day for the next few miles.
The LA 22 (Sorrento/Donaldsonville) exit is the last chance for services for many miles on eastbound, so attend to your business here. Beyond this interchange, the Interstate enters a vast and extensive wasteland of bleak and unbroken cypress swamp untrammeled by civilization or variation in landscape. This long stretch is broken only by two interchanges, at US 61 (Gramercy/Sorrento) and LA 641 (Gramercy). In all, this possibly most boring stretch of Interstate in all of Louisiana extends for 24 miles, as the Interstate favors an inland route which bypasses the towns and settlements along the river. To reach these locations, use US 61/Airline Highway in the area.
Historically, this segment was even more hopeless – originally there were no exits between US 61 south of Sorrento and US 51 at Laplace. Two interchanges have been added since then – LA 641 and the western Laplace exit (LA 3188), where the unbroken monotony now ends.
A long three mile or so viaduct just west of Laplace crosses swampland which was apparently deemed too geologically unacceptable to build a freeway at grade.
Laplace marks the western extremity of the greater New Orleans area, as it is considered a suburb of that city. However, in Interstate terms Laplace is only a small haven of traveler services between long unbroken sections of open freeway. Most services are concentrated at the main Laplace exit (US 51).
Interstate 55 also meets I-10 in Laplace, beginning its long trek north toward Hammond, Jackson, Memphis, and ultimately the Windy City. Direct access from I-10 to I-55 is only provided on westbound, since this constitutes the bulk of the desired traffic movements. To access I-55 from eastbound, exit the freeway at US 51 and proceed north on that highway about a quarter of a mile to where it meets the I-55 viaduct.
For the next eleven miles, I-10 occupies a long elevated viaduct (which continues the I-55 viaduct coming south from Manchac), crossing the open marshland of St. Charles Parish as well as the Bonnet Carré Spillway. As the freeway comes to a rise, it bends and angles southeast toward the Crescent City, and the vast blue of Lake Pontchartrain dominates the view to the north and northeast. In the distance, on a clear day, the New Orleans skyline and other tall buildings in the metro area are visible in silhouette.
I-10 skirts the lakeshore as it crosses over the spillway, then moves inland on the same beeline alignment and penetrates the vast open marshes. The main Canadian National railroad line parallels the freeway immediately to the south. Further to the south, the Norco petrochemical refinery and the twin cable stayed towers of the Hale Boggs (I-310) Mississippi River bridge can be spied. The refinery in particular is absolutely spectacular at night…
After a spell the marshes give way to a not so healthy stand of cypress trees, and the freeway bends east as the massive over-swamp interchange with I-310 comes into play. The I-310 ramps are obviously of more recent vintage, as the Interstate spur was completed in 1993.
Past I-310 the interstate rapidly widens to six lanes. Crossing an outfall canal, in a dramatic instant perhaps unparalleled anywhere else in America, the vast undeveloped swampy wastes end and dense suburban sprawl immediately begins. Welcome to Jefferson Parish.
For the next ten miles I-10 passes through a vast suburban area, with the freeway retaining six lanes overall and heavily utilized. Help is on the way in this regard, as the state has a long term plan to improve the freeway throughout its length in the parish; some of this work has already been completed, and other work is ongoing. Several large interchanges connect to the key arterials, serving this area. The first two exits (Loyola Drive, Williams Blvd.) serve Kenner. The Williams Blvd. interchange was recently reconstructed to accommodate growing traffic loads. On westbound, a dedicated exit leads to an access road for the New Orleans International Airport.
Power Blvd. (westbound off, eastbound on only), Veterans Blvd., Clearview Parkway, Causeway Blvd., and Bonnabel Blvd. serve the vast suburban wasteland that is Metairie. The Clearview and Causeway interchanges are full cloverleaves complete with collector/distributor lanes. Between these two interchanges, the Interstate was reconstructed ca. 2003 into its ultimate configuration (8 through lanes + 2 auxiliaries) and awaits the improvement of adjacent sections.
The nexus of the highway network in Jefferson Parish is the Causeway cloverleaf, which literally groans under the strain of traffic. Besides serving Northshore interests traveling to and from the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway bridge (which makes suburbia in St. Tammany Parish possible), Causeway Boulevard is the key access to the popular Lakeside Mall and the forest of high rise office buildings that is the Metairie Central Business District (some of which are visible from I-10).
The busiest section of freeway in Louisiana is Interstate 10 between Causeway Boulevard and the I-610 split. Currently this section resembles a war zone as reconstruction continues on this all important freeway to bring it to modern standards and accommodate massive traffic increases. The reconstruction will eventually include improved ramps, sound walls, and additional through lanes. The I-610 split historically has been a major traffic bottleneck, and was reconstructed in a project completed in 2000 to add additional through lanes for I-10 traffic. To stay on I-10, remain to the right, as I-610 is a left exit.
The freeway split also marks your entry on eastbound into the City of New Orleans, as you cross the now-infamous 17th Street Canal. Immediately, mainline I-10 curves to the south and proceeds toward the business district.
Interstate 10 in this area, commonly known as the Pontchartrain Expressway, was constructed on the right of way of the former New Basin Canal, and is one of the oldest freeways in Louisiana, with its earliest segments dating to 1958 (though improvements have been made since then, most recently in 2000, that renders the freeway more modern). The freeway retains six to eight lanes overall as it passes under the infamous railroad underpass, a flooding trouble spot so extreme that a massive pumping station was constructed exclusively to drain it (which the eastbound freeway traveler will see to the right inside the bend of the freeway). Beyond the railroad underpass, several historic cemeteries can be spotted in the vicinity of the Metairie Road/City Park Avenue interchange.
The Airline Highway/Tulane Avenue/Carrollton Avenue (officially the “Toni Morrison”) interchange seems massive, but only because of the high viaduct which flies over the tangle of ramps below. These ramps comprised the original antiquated alignment of the freeway before 1976 or so, and were traffic nightmares. Great views of the New Orleans skyline may be had here as downtown looms large.
The freeway expands to ten lanes for its final approach to downtown. The environs are rather bleak and industrial, broken only by the massive gray and green hulk of the Orleans Parish Prison on the freeway’s eastern flank, a living monument to former Criminal Sheriff (and now former Attorney General, yay) Charles Foti.
The centerpiece of the metro freeway system is the “megachange” (my word), a forbidden tangle of ramps and elevated roadways cobbled together piecemeal over many years, where I-10 veers from a southeast trajectory to a northeast trajectory and intersects the US 90 Business portion of the Pontchartrain Expressway (which leads to the Crescent City Connection bridge across the Miss. River) and US 90 mainline (Claiborne Avenue). (US 90 returns to the I-10 corridor here and does not leave it again as it proceeds east.) Ramps to Poydras Street, a convenient access point for the CBD and the Superdome, are provided for eastbound. The astute motorist might observe that I-10 essentially “exits itself” on eastbound: this is a legacy of the Pontchartrain Expressway being the first freeway to be constructed in the area. (Stay to the RIGHT to remain on I-10 EB.) This interchange was mildly reconstructed circa 1997, when direct ramps were provided to US 90B to eastbound/from westbound. Already the folly of making these ramps effectively only ONE LANE WIDE has become apparent.
Because of the complex history involved, I will have to write a separate segment documenting the historical development of the “megachange.” Stay tuned…
Leaving the vicinity of the “megachange”, I-10 traverses the infamous Claiborne Avenue viaduct through the central reaches of the city. This freeway was largely built in the neutral ground of Claiborne Avenue, destroying a beautiful avenue of graceful live oaks and the surrounding Treme community. The freeway skirts downtown and the French Quarter to the north, with skyscrapers and the spires of St. Louis Cathedral visible from the congested and functionally obsolete viaduct structure. Orleans Avenue is the best exit to reach the world famous attractions of the Vieux Carré.
The viaduct continues for several miles through declining inner city residential areas to just past the eastern I-610 ‘split’ where the freeway comes to earth aside a railroad corridor. Ahead lies the Industrial Canal and another very old bridge.
The “High Rise” bridge elevates high over the Industrial Canal to accommodate shipping traffic. A vintage 1961 monstrosity, the six lane bridge lacks pull-off shoulders and sports obsolete sight lines, vintage guardrail, and steep grades. Metal plates jut into the roadway and wreak havoc on tires. Trucks are required to remain in the right lane. Inevitably this has become a traffic chokepoint since everyone in their old cars (welcome to NOLA) likes to slow down going uphill. Adding to the fun, extremely treacherous ramps for Downman Road (eastbound off, westbound on) which are heavily used by port-related trucking interests are thrown in the mix on the eastern portion of the bridge. On the positive side, travelers (westbound travelers in particular) are afforded a dramatic view of the New Orleans skyline and cityscape.
Descending from the bridge, you are now in the East…New Orleans East! New Orleans East was once a largely suburbanized area within the New Orleans city limits, but in the post-K world this region has been rendered desolate and junked, and little has survived intact. Once a prosperous area, it had witnessed severe decline before the storm, and now looks to eventually return to its natural state of marshland as sky-high insurance premiums, a decimated economic base, and a scattered diaspora conspire against any potential neighborhood revival. But for now, observe the city of ruins while it lasts.
After making two sharp bends, the freeway assumes a northeast trajectory and passes through the heart of the storm-ravaged area. Devastation remains apparent even three years after the storm, as the freeway passes through what were once typical suburban environs. The neighborhood was primarily served by three diamond interchanges linking the Interstate to the key arterials, but these see little traffic now.
The urban environs eventually fade out and the interchange with I-510/LA 47 comes into view. I-510 was completed in 1995, but this interchange appears older as it was constructed in the 1960s along with I-10 in the area, and served Paris Road (LA 47) alone until the new freeway was built. In any case, I-510 provides a good connection to the NASA Michoud facility and is part of a quick route to Chalmette. The rotting hulk of the storm-ruined Six Flags New Orleans theme park (now permanently closed) can readily be observed at the southeast side of the interchange.
Beyond I-510, development immediately ceases and one enters an obviously unhealthy and decimated swamp that comprises the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge. The freeway remains six lanes of concrete and you do actually remain in the city of New Orleans. Mercifully, the speed limit increases to 70 MPH.
Along this section there is a “closed” exit which leads to – nothing! This interchange was built at the same time as the Interstate in the area, to accommodate a future arterial road in anticipation of future suburban development. Economic collapse in the 1980s and development trends unfavorable to Orleans Parish rendered any development plans moot, and this area remains wetland. It was probably for the best, because this area was several feet underwater during the late storm crisis. Another similarly styled exit, for the Bayou Sauvage NWR, connects to no other road either, and only accesses a parking lot for swamp tours. This exit was also “closed” for many years.
The next exit of any consequence is US 11, which will briefly parallel I-10 through the Slidell area. Unbelievably still in New Orleans, the environs resemble rural bayou country. Immediately the motorist reaches another long bridge – the infamous Twin Spans!!
During the 8/29 Crisis of National Despair, these 1965 vintage twin concrete slabs which span five miles of the open waters of Lake Pontchartrain were destroyed beyond repair by storm surge action, as the massive concrete sections were literally washed off their support piers into the murky brackish waters of the lake. Temporary action was taken to restore traffic on the crossing, which involved salvaging drowned concrete sections to restore two way traffic on the eastbound bridge (having experienced this setup firsthand, I can say that boy, that was….interesting) and then erecting temporary metal spans to reopen the damaged westbound span to service.
The original bridge, opened as a six lane span but later re-striped for four lanes (to add pull-off shoulders which were lacking in the original setup) was a traffic bottleneck and was slated to be replaced…eventually. Thanx to federal disaster relief funding, a new $700 million replacement span is being erected directly adjacent as I write. The new pair of bridges will sport three through lanes each, all shoulders to modern dimensions, and will be over twice as high as the previous span (to avoid that pesky storm surge).
The north terminus of the bridge brings the Interstate back to land in Saint Tammany Parish, Louisiana’s Northshore. The immediate lakefront area (including the Eden Isles development, accessible at exit 261) is still recovering from the tsunami, but is faring better than similarly affected areas on the Southshore. The next two exits beyond serve the growing suburb of Slidell, the blue collar cousin of its West St. Tammany relatives. All exits are provided with ample traveler services. US 190 (Gause Blvd.) is the primary access to the main retail and commercial areas, and the diamond interchange sees massive rush hour congestion. Six lanes and a 70 MPH speed limit are retained through the area. Now in progress, a new interchange at Fremaux Avenue (US 190 Business) is under construction to afford Slidell an additional Interstate outlet.
With Slidell behind the eastbound traveler, it is decision time. The last I-10 Louisiana exit is a major junction of Interstate freeways. At a major interchange to the northeast of Slidell, I-10, I-12, and I-59 meet, with the latter two Interstates meeting their ends. Travelers may head west from here to Hammond and Baton Rouge, north to Hattiesburg, or east to Gulfport and Mobile. The eastbound control city for I-10 is the inexplicable “Bay St. Louis.”
Passing this major junction, I-10 reverts to four through lanes. The last few Louisiana miles of I-10 are lonely, penetrating dense and desolate swamp as the freeway crosses the Pearl River watershed. There are no more surface road exits past Slidell until reaching Mississippi. A high level bridge spans the West Pearl River, and eastbound travelers may be well fooled into thinking that they have reached the state line. The next bridge crossing across the Pearl River finally brings eastbound travelers into the Magnolia State.
West terminus: I-10, Baton Rouge
East terminus: I-10 and I-59, Slidell
Distance (total): 85.59 miles
Parishes served (west to east): EBR, Liv, Tan, St T
Control Cities: Eastbound – Hammond, Slidell; Westbound – Hammond, Baton Rouge
Interstate 12 was originally created for one purpose alone – to bypass New Orleans. Through cross country traffic that wishes to avoid the extra miles on Interstate 10 to access that major city uses I-12 as a convenient shortcut, saving distance and time. Truckers in particular avail themselves of this convenience, making I-12 a popular trucking route and lending to its reputation of infamy as a fast-moving and dangerous highway.
Even so, I-12 has assumed new missions and goals in addition to this primary role, including serving interregional traffic and commuter traffic in the metropolitan areas through which it passes. A relatively short mainline 2 digit Interstate at around 85 miles in length, it comprises one of two intrastate Interstates in Louisiana.
Some have suggested that I-12 should more properly be numbered as a 3di associated with I-10, perhaps I-410 or some such. To those I say, PSHAW!!!
Interstate 12 commences its route at the I-10/I-12 “split”, a major freeway junction in the heart of Baton Rouge which is the linchpin of that city’s freeway system. The split was overhauled in 2000 and is greatly expanded from its original design. This reconstruction also extended to the length of I-12 in East Baton Rouge Parish, which helps facilitate traffic flow greatly during non peak periods. I-12 passes through the sprawling eastern reaches of BR on a modern freeway alignment with six through lanes overall, wide shoulders, and sound walls. Most interchanges are a variation of some sort on a standard diamond, and traffic flow on surface roads leading to them frequently breaks down at these junctures during rush hour; however, at US 61/Airline Highway a cloverleaf interchange can be found.
At the O’Neal Lane interchange, the expanded freeway comes to a screaming halt and the Interstate proceeds eastward from the interchange in a rural four lane configuration. This immediate narrowing has catastrophic traffic consequences each evening for Livingston Parish-bound motorists, and this interrupted traffic stream is a frequent cause of often-spectacular and frequently fatal accidents. The situation is exaberated by the narrow and decrepit nature of the twin Amite River viaducts which lie directly to the east, carrying outbound traffic into Livingston Parish.
Into Livingston Parish, I-12 takes on the physical characteristics that will define the route for its remainder: four lanes of rural highway surrounded by dense woodland. But for now, the first few exits serve rapidly growing exurban areas of Baton Rouge. The Denham Springs exit (LA 3002) intersects Range Avenue, the main feeder route into that town which is lined wall to wall with suburban strip development. Recent improvements to the interchange were undertaken to accommodate exploding traffic counts here. The next exit, Juban Road (LA 1026) was opened in 2008 to relieve Range Avenue of some of its traffic. The last BR exurban exit is for Walker (LA 447).
Beyond this point, little remarkable is encountered as I-12 traverses a busy but boring route through the Florida Parishes pine forest. Trucks roar by you at race car speeds as you cross Livingston Parish, with exits at various intervals serving the small communities and towns along the way. Most of these are located along the parallel US 190 to the north.
The freeway enters Tangipahoa Parish as it crosses the Natalbany River, and soon intersects I-55 at a cloverleaf interchange. At this point traffic can divert to all points of the compass: I-55 proceeds due north from here to Jackson, Mississippi and south to the New Orleans area; whereas I-12 proceeds due east and west to Baton Rouge and (in combination with I-10) the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This junction is busy as it provides a linchpin to the southern Louisiana freeway system.
The promised destination control point of Hammond, and its smaller companion city of Pontchatoula, are encountered at the next exit, US 51 Business (SW Railroad Avenue). Better access to these two cities is provided via I-55. The remains of the Hammond Square Mall can be spied at the northwest corner of this interchange. Hammond is a regional center, historically the hub of commercial activity in the Florida Parishes. The city plays home to Southeastern Louisiana University and students comprise a large proportion of the population.
Beyond Hammond you re-enter pine barrens as relatively few exits are encountered. This situation persists as you enter Saint Tammany Parish. The LA 21 exit (Covington/Mandeville) marks the start of the Northshore suburban area. The freeway remains unchanged in configuration and appearance, but traffic noticeably increases as commuter traffic comes into the mix. The LA 21 interchange is becoming a favored nucleus for shopping centers and other commercial activity.
After crossing the Tchefuncte River, a major junction is encountered. US 190 (Covington/Mandeville) is the major feeder route to those two cities and the access road to the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway bridge. The highway is a freeway facility for most of the distance south to the bridge. North of the interchange it constitutes a heavily congested suburban arterial lined with shopping centers and office parks. This exit also provides the best departure point for Bogalusa bound interests.
Central St. Tammany is heavily wooded and you temporarily leave urbanized areas as you traverse the still rural heart of the parish, with exits for LA 59 (Abita Springs/Mandeville) and LA 434 (Lacombe/St. Tammany) providing the few freeway access points in this region.
Slidell is eventually encountered, and the city sees two exits from I-12 as traffic increases and substantial urban development begins to line the freeway for the first time since Baton Rouge. The first exit (Airport Road) provides access to the Northshore Square Mall, the Northshore’s only enclosed shopping center. The second exit (US 11) provides the best route to Slidell’s central area and historic Olde Towne.
But the party ends rapidly as the eastern terminus of I-12 is encountered, at a major interchange with I-10 and the also-terminating I-59. Follow eastbound I-10 for the Gulf Coast cities and eventually Florida, westbound I-10 to reach New Orleans, or I-59 north to proceed northeast to Hattiesburg and Birmingham.
West portal (enters from Texas): State line west of Greenwood
East portal (enters from Mississippi): Mississippi River bridge at Delta/Vicksburg, MS
Distance in Louisiana: 189.87 miles
Parishes served (west to east): Cad, Bo, Web, Bi, Lin, Ou, Ri, Mad
Control Cities: Eastbound – Shreveport, Monroe, Vicksburg; Westbound – Monroe, Shreveport, Dallas
Interstate 20 is the primary highway serving Louisiana’s northern tier, including its third largest city Shreveport, as well as a number of other important regional centers. Though a mainline Interstate ending in “0”, it is not a cross country route, but does link some very important centers along its national routing, including Dallas and Atlanta.
The Interstate enters Louisiana from Texas just west of Greenwood and soon enters the Shreveport urbanized area. A major interchange is encountered on the west side of the city with I-220/LA 3132, the three-quarters beltline of Shreveport. Southern Louisiana bound interests should use LA 3132 as a quick limited access shortcut to US 171 or I-49.
The Interstate alignment follows a meandering path as it passes through the urban area. I-20 may be the most modern of any urbanized freeway alignment in Louisiana save the 1990s vintage sections of I-49. The major interchange with that Interstate is intersected just west of downtown. Downtown itself has its primary access at the US 71 North/LA 1 exit (Spring St./Market St.).
Crossing the Red River on a nondescript bridge while briefly concurrent with US 71, I-20 enters the growing suburb of Bossier City. The Interstate provides access to all of Bossier’s best known attractions – the Red River casinos, Barksdale Air Force Base, and Louisiana Downs racetrack. I-220 returns to its parent at the east end of the city; by this point I-20 has largely left the urban area behind. Vast stretches of northern Louisiana piney woods await you for the ninety or so miles.
Interstate 20 follows the US 80 corridor through northern Louisiana. Along the long section between Shreveport and Monroe, many US 80 towns can be accessed from the Interstate. The largest of these are Minden (LA 159), Arcadia (LA 9), and Ruston (US 167) the largest center along the routing and which is home to Louisiana Tech University.
Interstate 20 traverses a largely antiquated alignment through the Monroe area, with the downtown elevated viaduct and its many off-ramps particularly obsolete in this regard. The freeway serves a growing exurban area in West Monroe and the Brownfield community to that city’s west, with retail and commercial areas sprouting along the various interchanges. Within Monroe the freeway traverses largely depressed areas, but provides good access to the city’s airport and the major enclosed retail center, the Pecanland Mall. A major junction is encountered at US 165 which traverses south to Alexandria and north to Arkansas.
East of Monroe the freeway traverses the flat fertile plains of the high-poverty Mississippi Delta region. Major towns served include Rayville (US 425), Delhi (LA 17), and Tallulah (US 65). West of Delta, US 80 hops onto I-20 for the short trip across the Mississippi River bridge into Vicksburg.
South terminus: I-10 and US 167, Lafayette
North terminus: I-20, Shreveport
Distance (total): 208.60 miles
Parishes served: Lafy, St L, Ev, Av, Rap, Nat, De, Cad
Control Cities: Northbound – Opelousas, Alexandria, Shreveport; Southbound – Alexandria, Lafayette
Interstate 49 is a critical artery for transportation in Louisiana as it links the north and south parts of the state, and is thus perhaps the state’s second most important freeway. An intrastate Interstate, it nevertheless comprises the second longest of Louisiana’s mainline Interstates. Despite all this, I-49 was not part of the original 1956 Interstate plan, but was approved several years later in a 1977 expansion to the Interstate system, and was not fully completed until 1996. The existence of I-49 today can be traced to the political support of former Governor (now Federal inmate) Edwin Edwards and his sponsorship of the proposed “North-South Expressway” which evolved into I-49.
Interstate 49’s first twenty-two miles from Lafayette to just north of Opelousas are concurrent with US 167, and indeed this was the first section of I-49 in existence as it constitutes an upgrade of the US 167 expressway in this corridor. The southern terminus of I-49 is at a busy cloverleaf interchange with I-10 in north Lafayette, with the roadway continuing south (as US 167 alone) as a partial expressway into Lafayette (Evangeline Thruway, a key arterial serving downtown and eventually becoming the US 90 highway to Morgan City).
North to Opelousas, frontage roads line the highway continuously, though unlike in Texas they merely line the freeway and do not connect to the feeder ramps for interchanges. For the first handful of exits up to Carencro, the motorist remains in the Lafayette area and development is present, but ultimately that gives way to prairie and rural land as one enters Saint Landry Parish.
The city of Opelousas is an important regional center and a key junction for highways as US 190 is encountered here at a six ramp interchange. US 190 eastbound provides a shorter route distance-wise to Baton Rouge for southbound travelers. The main body of Opelousas can be accessed via US 190 westbound. Most traveler services are available at Cresswell Lane (LA 31) which sits one interchange to the south of US 190. LA 31 also provides the best access to Evangeline Downs, which lies directly to the east of the freeway.
At the Ville Platte exit, US 167 breaks west to serve that town, and in the process veers greatly to the west of the freeway, though it eventually turns back north toward Alexandria.
North of Opelousas proceeding to Alexandria, the land is vastly rural and grows more wooded. US 71 parallels I-49 some distance to the east and was functionally replaced by the Interstate freeway for north-south traffic interests in the state, but I-49 was constructed far enough to the west of the old highway that it avoids the towns and communities along the US highway corridor, traversing instead empty territory distant from any towns or settlements. I-49 clips the corners of Evangeline and Avoyelles Parishes before entering Rapides Parish and growing closer to the US 71 corridor.
Alexandria appears rapidly, with the first exit being for US 71/167 (MacArthur Boulevard) the pre-Interstate expressway-grade bypass of the city now heavily lined with commercial development. The Alexandria urban section of I-49 was the last section of the Interstate to open (1996) and is thus relatively modern. Like the Shreveport section to the north, it was shoehorned along a railroad corridor as it traverses the heart of the city. Alexandria is central Louisiana’s most important center and serves as the crossroads for all north-south traffic in the state, with virtually all major Louisiana north-south highways intersecting in the city and fanning out to the north and south to serve all parts of the state.
The primary junction in the city is located near downtown, where the US 167 freeway (Pineville Expressway) is encountered. All Monroe and Ruston-bound interests should depart here as the Pineville Expressway funnels traffic to the US 165 and US 167 corridors.
Alexandria is departed as rapidly as it was entered, and the freeway transitions to rural pine barrens as it assumes a northwestern trajectory paralleling the Red River and LA 1. Little of consequence is encountered along this over 100 mile stretch, with the largest center being Natchitoches which can be reached from the LA 6 exit. Another important exit, US 84, provides access to the city of Mansfield, seat of Desoto Parish.
The first Shreveport exit is for Bert Kouns Industrial Loop, though urban development by and large begins at the stack interchange with LA 3132 (Inner Loop Expressway). One of only three Louisiana stack interchanges, this is a major junction as it affords Texas-bound travelers a bypass of Shreveport to the southwest along a limited access alignment. This freeway eventually meets I-20 and I-220 on the west side of the city. Texarkana-bound motorists can also use LA 3132 in combination with I-220 to reach US 71 on the north side of the city and bypass the urbanized area.
The last few miles of I-49 penetrates the city of Shreveport and are of recent vintage, opening in the early 1990s and constructed from the beginning with sound walls and other modern amenities. The freeway alignment, as in Alexandria, follows a rail corridor through the city’s southern reaches.
The Interstate comes to a terminus at I-20 just southwest of downtown, with the interchange between the two important freeways constituting a nearly complete stack. Ramps proceed north from the Interstate to access Pete Harris Drive, which provides access to downtown via a depressed neighborhood on Shreveport’s north side.
South terminus: I-10, Laplace
North portal (enters from Mississippi): State line north of Kentwood
Distance (total): 65.81 miles
Parishes served: St JB, Tan
Control Cities: Northbound – Hammond, Jackson; Southbound – New Orleans
Interstate 55 comprises the major route to the New Orleans area from the north. Nationally it links New Orleans with Jackson, Memphis, St. Louis, and Chicago, among other centers. Throughout Louisiana it parallels the older US 51.
The southern terminus is not at New Orleans, however, but several miles to the west in a wetland location near Laplace, due to the geography of Lake Pontchartrain. Crescent City-bound interests should continue on I-10 east to reach their destination. The interchange between I-10 and I-55 is entirely elevated, but partial in nature as ramps are only provided to I-10 east and from I-10 west. The missing movements are provided via a brief surface sojourn on US 51.
The first exit is at mile 1 for US 51, and is itself partial permitting only southbound exit/northbound entrance. Though the original surface route of US 51 remains, the erstwhile Federal highway becomes concurrent with the Interstate from this location north to the Pontchatoula area. For the next twenty plus miles, the Interstate is elevated on a viaduct as it passes over the swamps which comprise the land bridge between Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas. This segment of Interstate was one of the last of the originally planned mainline Interstates to be completed in Louisiana, opening in the early 1980s. There are few exits along this stretch. Ruddock (exit 7) connects to Old US 51, but is otherwise a ghost town most popular locally for the dumping of murder victims than anything else.
At Pass Manchac, the connecting waterway between the lakes, the freeway elevates to accommodate boat traffic. The famous restaurant Middendorf’s is reached from the Manchac exit, which connects to Old US 51 and serves little else. Also, the combined Interstate/US 51 enters Tangipahoa Parish.
The freeway comes to earth north of Manchac as the cypress swamps recede and the upland prairies commence. Pontchatoula is the first of a long line of cities that can be found along the Interstate corridor in Tangipahoa Parish. The freeway veers west, then north, along a late-1950s constructed alignment as Business US 51 (former mainline US 51) continues north into the city. The second exit for Pontchatoula is LA 22, a cramped cloverleaf which very much shows its age.
North of the LA 22 junction, US 51 breaks free from the concurrency and establishes its own path parallel to the east side of the freeway. The next exit afterward is the cloverleaf with Interstate 12, which is a major freeway crossing that allows Interstate travel in all four cardinal directions.
The control city destination of Hammond is next on the list as I-55 bypasses that city to the west. US 190 (West Thomas Street) provides the primary access to the downtown area, while University Avenue (LA 3234) on the city’s north side is the major exit to Southeastern Louisiana University and the associated student precinct.
Leaving the Hammond area, the freeway enters vastly wooded and rural precincts while traversing a bumpy concrete alignment, though exits are frequent as many towns are encountered, all along the US 51 corridor immediately to the east: Tickfaw, Independence, Amite (parish seat), Roseland, Tangipahoa, and finally Kentwood, world famous for spring water and a certain pop princess. The Mississippi border is crossed a few miles afterward near the town of Osyka.
South terminus: I-10 and I-12, Slidell
North portal (enters from Mississippi): Pearl River bridge near Nicholson, MS
Distance (total): 11.48 miles
Parishes served: St T
Control Cities: Northbound – Hattiesburg; Southbound – New Orleans
Interstate 59’s routing is brief in Louisiana, but its importance as a northeastern outlet for New Orleans remains paramount. The freeway is four lanes and largely rural throughout its short length in the state, but the southernmost extremities are affected by exurban growth associated with greater New Orleans.
Commencing at a major interchange with I-10 and I-12 in Slidell, the freeway stops short of its promised control destination of New Orleans, though I-10 westbound affords a connection to that major city. At this location, I-12 west to Baton Rouge and I-10 east to Gulfport can be directly reached. At exit 3, US 11 intersects the freeway and becomes concurrent with the Interstate northward into Mississippi. At this exit, the motorist can also reach LA 41, which is a major highway to Bogalusa.
Exit 5A (LA 41 Spur) serves the largely rural town of Pearl River. After crossing the West Pearl River on a recently expanded bridge, Exit 5B (Honey Island Swamp) is encountered; this constitutes the pre-Interstate alignment of US 11 into Mississippi. (The road is now a lonely dead end highway, but is still of great interest to road scholars.)
After this interchange, I-55/US 11 enters the vast cypress wastes of the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area, and no more settlements are encountered for the remainder of the route in Louisiana. The road accessed via the final Louisiana interchange (exit 11), located just before the Pearl River crossing into the Magnolia State, connects to no other road or community and is thus signed as the “Pearl River Turnaround.”
South terminus: I-10 exit 155B, downtown Baton Rouge
North terminus: US 61, Scotlandville community of Baton Rouge
Distance (total): 8.89 miles
Parishes served: EBR
Control Cities: Northbound – Downtown/Metro Airport, Natchez; Southbound – Baton Rouge
Interstate 110 comprises an urban spur through the central and northern reaches of Baton Rouge, providing rapid access to downtown, the Metro Airport, Southern University, and US 61 north of the city which continues north to St. Francisville and Natchez, Mississippi. The freeway was constructed in phases, and the southern segments comprise some of the oldest portions of freeways in Louisiana.
I-110 begins at the infamous I-10/110 interchange in downtown BR. Passing just east of downtown, with spectacular skyline views the order of the day, the freeway utilizes an ancient and obsolete late 1950s elevated alignment replete with inside lane merges and left exits. Freeway access points are frequent here as the 1950s highway planners favored provision of many entry points to the business district. In the span of the first mile, exits 1A to 1J (dependent on the direction) are encountered! Even considering the obsolescence of the highway design, the many downtown entry points are useful and serve to distribute downtown-bound interests efficiently.
Just north of downtown and approaching the Governor’s Mansion and the DOTD headquarters building, the freeway lowers to grade and encounters a sharp curve (which frequently floods during storms due to its severe banking) as it traverses its oldest segment, the oldest or second oldest freeway in Louisiana depending on what source you believe. The highway is depressed somewhat below grade in this area. Six narrow concrete lanes with curbs and gutters, crossed by several old overpasses, are fed by various ramps to and from the surface arterials above. The speed is 50 MPH throughout this segment.
At the termination of this segment, the freeway navigates another sharp curve and converts to an elevated facility and rises above the street grid of north Baton Rouge’s depressed neighborhoods. Immediately to the west, the massive ExxonMobil refinery comes into view, and several exits were placed along this segment to provide maximal access to both the industrial facilities and surrounding residential areas. The freeway sports six narrow lanes and lacks pull off shoulders, though it was constructed around the same time as the contemporaneous and similar I-10 Claiborne Elevated which includes emergency shoulders.
North of Hollywood Street the freeway returns to grade and enters the stack interchange complex with Airline Highway (US 61/190). One of only three stacks in Louisiana, this interchange, designed with industrial traffic interests in mind, was completed in August 1976, though it was not fully opened to traffic until a few years later due to ongoing freeway construction to the north.
The section of freeway from Airline Highway to the north terminus at Scenic Highway was completed in the early 1980s and was designed with community interests in mind, on a wide right of way and including early versions of sound walls, pedestrian overpasses, and buffering. The freeway facility even to this day is state of the art, though much of this investment is wasted as the freeway sees little traffic along its northern extremities as it traverses a largely economically depressed area. Two pairs of braided ramps (Louisiana’s oldest) are encountered between Airline and Harding Blvd. (LA 408). Depart the Interstate at LA 408 to reach BR Metro Airport and Southern University.
West terminus: I-10 exit 25, Sulphur
East terminus: I-10 exit 34, east of Lake Charles
Distance (total): 12.40 miles
Parishes served: Calc
Control Cities: Signed as “Lake Charles Loop” from I-10; Westbound – Beaumont; Eastbound – Lafayette
It is often wondered why Lake Charles, not an exceptionally large city by any means, was afforded a bypass routing by the Interstate gods. The three most favorable theories for this are as follows:
1) I-210 was intended to facilitate access to the Port of Lake Charles, which is located south of the city on the Calcasieu River ship channel. Indeed, the secondary Interstate makes access to this important facility much easier, permitting port-bound interests to avoid traversing the center of the city on urban surface streets.
2) I-210 was intended to provide improved access to the city’s south side, which contains the major retail centers and better neighborhoods, and constitutes the primary direction of the city’s sprawl.
3) I-210 was constructed as an alternate east-west routing so that Interstate traffic could avoid the treacherous and ancient 1952 vintage I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge.
In any case, I-210 comprises the southern three-quarters of a continuous freeway loop around the city of Lake Charles, and traverses southern Lake Charles neighborhoods, the Prien Lake Mall, and other highlights. The freeway was built largely parallel to Prien Lake Road and many parts were constructed on elevated fill. I-210 has a Texan character in places as it takes advantage of parallel surface streets to make interchange connections.
On the route’s western end, the freeway crosses a long and narrow 1960s vintage bridge to traverse over Prien Lake and the Calcasieu River ship channel. While not as treacherous as the I-10 river crossing, it is hair-raising in its own right as the freeway (on westbound) elevates to cross the channel, then descends while making a sharp bend…
West terminus: I-20 (exit 11) and LA 3132, west Shreveport
East terminus: I-20 exit 26, Bossier City
Distance (total): 17.62 miles
Parishes served: Cad, Bo
Control Cities: Eastbound – Monroe; Westbound – Dallas
Interstate 220 provides a northern bypass of the Shreveport metropolitan area, and constitutes the northern portion of a three-quarters beltway around the urbanized area. The freeway is of marginal utility as the northern part of the Shreveport area is lightly populated, and thus the freeway traverses mainly rural environs while staying only a handful of miles to the north of its parent route. Also, I-20 through the city is relatively modern and never congested outside of rush hour, thus rendering a bypass even more superfluous. Indeed, though it was an original planned 1956 route, the state delayed completion of I-220 for many years, with the last section (the Cross Lake causeway) opened in 1991.
South terminus: US 90, Boutte
North terminus: I-10 exit 220, just west of Kenner in St. Charles Parish
Distance (total): 11.25 miles
Parishes served: St C
Control Cities: Northbound – ; Southbound – Boutte, Houma
Interstate 310 is a route of relatively recent vintage, though its roots originate much earlier in the planned Dixie Freeway/Interstate 410 project which was on the books for most of the late 1960s and 1970s. I-310 and I-510 are the only portions of this proposal which were eventually constructed and opened to traffic. In any case, I-310 serves a valuable purpose as the lifeline of St. Charles Parish, linking those growing exurban cities to New Orleans, and provides a valuable Mississippi River crossing. Constructed in segments, the first portion (the Hale Boggs Bridge between the river communities of Destrehan and Luling) was opened in 1983, with the last portion to be completed (US 61 to I-10) opened in 1993. The freeway is six lanes throughout except for the southernmost section (LA 3127 to US 90).
Commencing at I-10 at a large interchange elevated over swampland, the majority of the northern portion of I-310 is elevated over wetlands on viaducts. The interchange with US 61 (Kenner/Norco) is one of three stack junctions in Louisiana, and rises like a sight out of Los Angeles over the southeast Louisiana cypress wetlands. This junction was likely constructed in this manner to serve industrial interests along the river.
Approaching the river, the freeway comes to grade, but soon the Hale Boggs Bridge is encountered and the river rises high to vault over the Father of Waters. This bridge, opened in 1983, was a pioneering cable stayed span and was named for the congressman who championed its construction. The bridge’s need became particularly apparent after a fatal ferry accident occurred near this location in 1978.
Once upon the river’s west bank, the freeway returns to grade and traverses broad sugarcane fields along a bumpy concrete alignment dating from the late 1980s. At LA 3127 the cane fields revert to woodland and the freeway bends southeast to make its final approach to its signed destination of Boutte, where it ends at a traffic light at US 90, with freeway stubs facilitating a future extension of the main carriageways if ever required. Eventually, I-49 is intended to interchange with the freeway at this location, which will provide an entirely limited access route to Houma and points west.
South terminus: North end of Intracoastal Waterway bridge, New Orleans (LA 47 continues south)
North terminus: I-10 (exit 246) and LA 47, Little Woods community of New Orleans
Distance (total): 3.04 miles
Parishes served: Or
Control Cities: Northbound – none; Southbound – Chalmette
Along with I-310, Interstate 510 is one of two completed vestiges of the failed I-410/Dixie Freeway plan, which was intended to provide a freeway loop bypass of New Orleans to the south, largely through open wetlands. One of Louisiana’s newest Interstates, the freeway facility was completed in 1995, though the I-10 stack at the northern terminus dates to the 1960s and the era of the original Dixie Freeway concept. A short freeway clocking in at just over three miles in length, it serves as part of a quick route to Chalmette but otherwise traverses largely undeveloped environs of the eastern part of New Orleans, and thus is a seemingly useless Interstate…
Never congested despite its metropolitan setting, destinations along its route include the defunct Six Flags theme park and the NASA Michoud Assembly along the Intracoastal Waterway. The route is entirely concurrent with LA 47, which is unique in Louisiana, and indeed the route was formerly a portion of LA 47’s surface routing (aka Paris Road). The southern end of the freeway is anchored by the “Green Bridge” over the Industrial Canal, but the Interstate highway designation terminates at the northern end of this bridge due to this crossing not meeting Interstate standards.
West terminus: I-10 exit 230, New Orleans
East terminus: I-10 exit 238B, New Orleans
Distance in Louisiana: 4.52 miles
Parishes served: Or
Control Cities: Eastbound – Slidell; Westbound – Baton Rouge
Interstate 610 provides a lateral limited access connection within the city of New Orleans, permitting traffic to bypass the downtown area via a freeway routing through the central part of the city. While I-10 does the looping, I-610 is a relatively straight route, a rarity for a bypass alignment. The secondary Interstate was constructed in phases throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
The freeway sees six lanes of continuous concrete on an urban routing which largely parallels a rail line. The eastern section is situated on an elevated viaduct which primarily occupies the cleared block between Humanity and Benefit Streets in the Gentilly neighborhood. Access to both directions of I-10 is provided on the western end, but the eastern terminus only affords connections to I-10 eastbound and from I-10 westbound, facilitating the flow of bypass traffic. The west end in particular sees rush hour traffic backups during the evening as traffic from I-10 and 610 merge together, but otherwise I-610 is rarely congested and generally free flowing.
Along its route, I-610 passes through New Orleans’ famed City Park, which comprises a brief break along its routing from the dense urban environs through which it passes.
West terminus: Beginning of freeway west of Ames Blvd., Marrero
East terminus: I-10 exit 234, New Orleans
Distance in Louisiana: 9.70 miles
Parishes served: Jef, Or
Control Cities: Eastbound – New Orleans; Westbound – Westbank, Gretna, Westwego,
Louisiana’s newest Interstate (designated 1999), unsigned Interstate 910 is marked as US 90 Business in the greater New Orleans area, and is better known to motorists as the Westbank Expressway on the westbank of the river and the Pontchartrain Expressway on the eastbank of the river. Though only recently included into the Interstate Highway system, this highway facility is one of the oldest in Louisiana and originally dates to the 1950s.
The Mississippi River bridge at New Orleans (Greater New Orleans Bridge, later the Crescent City Connection) and its highway approaches were first proposed in a 1946 planning report by famed New York planner Robert Moses. The first span (now the westbank-bound bridge) was completed in 1958, along with the original freeway facility which extended from Airline Highway on the north to De Gaulle Blvd. on the south. The remainder of the Westbank approach was constructed as an expressway facility west to US 90 near Avondale. The expressway included a tunnel facility (rare for Louisiana), the Harvey Tunnel, under the Harvey Canal. This extensive freeway/expressway facility was constructed to the crude design standards of the era. Originally designated as LA 3019, this route was given the designation of US 90 Business in 1963 (where it was not incorporated into I-10).
Because of the early date of construction of this facility and increasing traffic counts thanks to Westbank suburbanization spurred by the bridge, this facility rapidly grew obsolete and heavily congested. Thus eventual rehabilitation was inevitable, and had major political support from thousands of Westbank commuters. Reconstruction of the US 90B facility occurred over a period of many years through the 1980s and 1990s. This reconstruction included a second Mississippi River span (opened in 1988 and providing four lanes in a single direction per bridge), HOV lanes, an Interstate-quality freeway facility from Marrero to the “megachange” near the Superdome, reconfigured entrance and exit ramps, and vastly improved signage. The speed limit, however, remains 50 MPH throughout the freeway stretch.
The vast majority of this freeway is elevated in nature and passes over heavily developed urban and suburban areas. Highlights of the stretch are the twin Mississippi River bridges, the “high rise” over the Harvey Canal (which replaced the Harvey Tunnel, now used by the freeway frontage roads), and the massive bridge toll plaza on the eastbank-bound carriageway, located on the Algiers side of the bridge. The Westbank Expressway portion of I-910 is constructed in a Texas-style manner, with continuous frontage roads accommodating entry and exit ramps, extending the DOTD’s modern-era penchant for Texan methods of freeway construction.
On the Eastbank side, elevated HOV lanes dominate the scenery. These lanes extend from Terry Parkway in Gretna to Earhart Blvd. near the Superdome, and are accommodated on the eastbank-bound (newer) river span.