La1 bridge to Gulf oil & gas is tolling

August 17, 2009
By Peter Samuel

Toll collection started July 27 on the first phase of rebuilt southern Louisiana Route One (La1), a new fixedspan bridge over Bayou LaForche in Leeville, which was opened July 8.  The 22m, 73ft vertical clearance bridge is part of an eventual 30km, 19mi of largely elevated roadway to Port Fourchon/Grand Isle on the far southern end of the Mississippi delta. Port Fourchon is the major land base for offshore oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, and Grand Isle is the only populated part of the far end of the delta.

Port Fourchon is about 95km, 60 miles due south of New Orleans.

Existing La1 south of Golden Meadow is built on delta swamp and is gradually subsiding. It is only a few feet (a meter) above normal sea level and so gets inundated in storms. For example after Hurricane Gustav last September La1 was reported "under as much as 4 feet" (1m) of water for an extended period due to the storm surge. (see news article nearby)

Tolled La1 will be elevated nearly 7m (22ft) above normal sea level to survive all but the estimated 500-year storm event. Under construction now is a single 12.2m, 40ft wide roadway 2x1 lanes of one 3.65m, 12ft lane each direction with 2.4m, 8ft shoulders either side. Some short stretches are already 2x2 lanes for overtaking.

Conventional concrete I-beams

Construction by Traylor involves conventional pilings and prefabricated prestressed concrete I-beam girders with steel plate girders on the longer spans of the Leeville bridge. Innovative is a huge moving truss arrangement 450m, 1500ft long with three cranes atop it for driving concrete piles, and placing girders, bents and concrete deck panels. The "top-down construction" enabled by the truss - constructed at the front and then taken up at the end as the construction proceeds - reduces impacts on the natural marshlands during construction. No conventional temporary haul roads or construction pads are needed.

ASIDE: Such elaborate construction methods are dictated by false environmentalist dogma, which wrongly assumes the natural environment is pathetically fragile and liable to permanent damage from the slightest human invasion.

Contrary to environmentalist fearmongering, natural processes have enormous restorative powers. Storms, tides, floods and naturally occurring vegetation would soon remove the slightest trace of a simple gravel or plank haul road - the sensible way to build here. Within a few years there would be no evidence the haul road had ever existed.

Another economical method would be using barges to move piles, bents, girders and deck sections in to where they can be lifted by crane and placed. Again some shallow dredging would be needed here and there. But the scars would be temporary.

The elaborate truss is the expensive homage we now routinely pay to myth-based environmentalist spiritualism. END ASIDE

Eventually 2x2 lanes

The eventual plan is to duplicate the whole 30km, 19 mile elevated section Golden Meadow to Port Fourchon to bring it up to standard 2x2 lanes divided format. North of Golden Meadow most of it is already 2x2 lanes divided although it's mostly just arterial standard with at-grade intersections.

Tolls

Tolls for the Leeville Bridge bridge portion are $2.50 for cars going up to $12 for 6 axles and more.

Trucks and other commercial vehicles constitute some 37% of traffic.

There are private car discounts.

Residents of Grand Isle get a special 50c toll with the GeauxPass account, and there is a commuter rate of $1.50 for frequent users - 20 or more trips in a 60 day period.

Bridge to oil & gas

30,000 people work out of Port Fourchon Grand Isle and the offshore facilities they serve, although Grand Isle only has a population of about 1,500 residents. La1 is the offshore oil and gas industry's lifeline to the rest of America.

see toll rates nearby

Tolling system

Tolling is all-electronic, cashless on the road. The business rule is you have a GeauxPass transponder or for camera-based tolling you pre-register your license plate online www.GeauxPass.com or at a walk-in center. Several walk-up toll kiosks are planned but only one is open at present - at the main customer service center in Golden Meadow. It is open 24/7.

The toll point uses a gantry with transponder reader antennas and cameras and smart loops to count axles.

The gantry is located on a  4-lane section on embankment on the northern approach to the Leeville Bridge. It tolls only southbound. Northbound tolling will not be added until a northern elevated section Leeville to Golden Meadow is completed.

The toll gantry of tubular steel construction spans all four lanes which have concrete median barrier separation.

see rendering of the toll point above

Idris electromagnetic loops are located in square plan arrays in a concrete pavement section. Using patented signal processing algorithms the loop-based system detects and frames each vehicle moving through the toll zone for the lane controller, and classes the vehicle by length and axle count.

ASIDE: What do Idrised tollers do when cars are made of non-metallic materials - a car made entirely of fiberglass, plastics, aluminum, or carbon fiber? Of course it could have any steel in it, not even the axles or the seat frames because the loops would pick those up.  Guess that's not very likely given the superior strength/dollar of steel. END ASIDE

Vehicles without transponders trigger a camera. Cameras operate rear and front. Prepaid single trippers are separated from violators.

Toll system integration was by ETC with TransCore supplying AI1200 readers and a mix of hardcase AT5100 series read-only transponders and eGo sticker tags under the state's toll brandname GeauxPass. This the same combination used by NTTA in the Dallas TX metro area.

AT5100s are the original read-only transponders used in the first electronic tolling installation in the US on the Dallas North Tollway. The Crescent City Connection bridges in New Orleans deployed AT5100s at around the same time.

"Glitch"

There was a six day suspension of tolling July 28 to August 3 ascribed by a Louisiana DOT spokesman to "a computer system glitch that prevented cash payments being processed at the Customer Service Center." Another account attributes the suspension to delays in delivery of hardware at the CSC.  A rush of cash customers wasn't handled properly on the first day of tolling and the SCS was "overwhelmed."

Construction is underway on the elevated south of the end of the bridge segment as a 2-lane elevated. And there's a procurement ongoing for the elevated north of the bridge segment.

URS has done traffic and revenue studies and Wilbur Smith Associates advised on the elevated construction.

Traffic volumes are quite small. URS projected early traffic at 8.2k/day, toll revenues as $4m/yr but growing to 15.4k and $18.3m tolls in 2025. Within that projected truck traffic goes from 1,800/day now to 4,800. Price elasticity is put at as small -0.08.

project site:

http://la1project.com

lobby group for La1:

http://www.la1coalition.org/

Our reports on the La1 project Dec 2003, Mar 2006:

http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/453

http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/1481

Other toll potential

A project with toll potential is the upgrade of US90 the major highway arcing south through the delta: New Orleans, Raceland, Morgan City, Franklin, Jeanerette, New Iberia, Broussard, Lafayette. It is 190km, 120 miles long. The project cost of upgrading it all to expressway standard is put at $5.2b.  Much of the La1 traffic from Port Fourchon/Grand Isle uses US90 which it crosses at Raceland on the southwest outskirts of New Orleans, so the projects are complementary.

Another possible Louisiana toll project is northern loop around Baton Route.

VARIABLE DISTANCES: Please note that Port Fourchon seems to be on very unstable ground, and may now be drifting off into the Gulf of Mexico. Each time we write about this project it seems to be a different distance away from New Orleans, although each time we use the same Gmaps Pedometer program on Google Maps (http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/) to get you a number. In 2003 we measured the distance as 80km, 50 miles, in 2006 70km, 45 miles, now we get 95km, 59mi. We don't recommend anyone planning to helicopter out there rely on our estimates at the gas pump - editor.

BACKGROUND (from TOLLROADSnews 2003-12-07)

This is an area with a rich mix of heavy petroleum handling and low delta marshland amid meandering riverchannels. Port Fourchon is the closest dry land service area to the LOOP Offshore Facilities, a brilliant ocean mooring station for large oil tankers established a quarter century ago. It ranks as one of the busiest ports in the US in terms of sheer volume and value of its throughput. (www.loopllc.com)

LOOP stands for Louisiana Offshore Oil Port and is the largest oil import point in the US and is connected by huge pipes to over a third of US oil refineries - mainly those in the central section of the country. LOOP LLC handles 300m barrels/year and is owned by Shell Oil, Marathon Ashland and Murphy and consists of three buoy anchorages in 34m (110ft) of water, so it can handle the largest oil tankers.

There are fixed legged platforms with helicopter pads, personnel quarters and offices for dispatchers, ship pilots and huge oil pumps. It is connected by four underwater pipelines to oil refineries in Lousiana and via a 1.2m (48in) pipeline to CAPLINE pipe which goes to Chicago.

LOOP also directly feeds America's largest oil storage facility, Clovelly 40km (25mi) away consisting of eight natural underground salt caverns or domes of 48m barrels of oil storage capacity. Offshore oil production in the Gulf also feeds the system from the MARS facility.

Clovelly is a system of exchanging underlaying brine and oil via large pumps, and programming the dispatch of oil to Texas, the Midwest and Canada as needed by refineries.

The area handles 15% of US imports of foreign oil and about 20% of the oil and gas production of the Gulf of Mexico.

Port Fouchon services about 6,000 workers on offshore platforms and has a population itself of about 35k. It is also a fishing port.

TOLLROADSnews 2009-08-16

Further Reading


Leave a comment: