Lake Pontchartrain Causeway named National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark

In case you missed this.  This is a very interesting article about the Causeway Bridge.  I hope you enjoy it.

Construction of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway’s first span, which opened in 1956. ( | The Times-Picayune archive)

Robert Rhoden, | The Times-Picayune By Robert Rhoden, | The Times-Picayune

on November 08, 2013 at 5:06 PM, updated November 08, 2013 at 8:11 PM

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, which has long enjoyed bragging rights as the “World’s Longest Bridge,” can now put itself in the company of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Washington Monument as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The honor, celebrated Friday morning at a ceremony near the Mandeville end of the 24-mile bridge, has nothing to do with the span’s monumental length, however.

Instead, the Causeway’s original span earned the distinction because of the innovative techniques used in construction and the pioneering engineers who worked on the project that was completed in 1956, linking Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes and leading to the explosive development of the north shore.

“It is a symbol for the whole country of the American ingenuity spirit,” said Phil Jones, deputy assistant secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development. “It stands as a source of pride for the entire state.”

Causeway plaque.jpgView full sizePlaque noting Lake Pontchartrain Causeway’s status as a civil engineering landmark. (Robert Rhoden, | The Times-Picayune)

A small marker noting the designation stands in a grassy area between the Mandeville toll plaza buildings and the lake.

The first Causeway span, which now carries southbound traffic, was the first bridge ever to be constructed using 54-inch in diameter hollow, cylindrical prestressed concrete piles to support a span, the Louisiana chapter of the civil engineering organization said. The pilings were larger and stronger than the norm, allowing fewer of them to be used and reducing costs, officials said.

Prior to the Causeway’s construction, the standard practice for bridge construction was to use solid square or circular concrete piles of 24-inches or less in diameter, the organization said.

Also unique at the time was the manner of construction. “The Causeway Bridge is the first bridge ever to employ mass-production, assembly line techniques in fabricating and assembling a bridge,” organization noted.

The Louisiana Bridge Co. built a state-of-the-art concrete casting plant on the shore of the lake in Mandeville, just east of the Causeway, where bridge components were built and then sent by barge to the construction site. This method replaced the standard cast-in-place construction method.

“The assembly line process significantly reduced both the construction cost and the installation time,” the LASCE said. The bridge was completed in 14 months from the time the first pilings were driven.

The civil engineering organization lauded the engineers on the Causeway project, designed by Palmer & Baker Inc.

Among them were Maxwell Upson, chairman of Raymond Concrete Pile Co., who was an innovator in the field of prestressed concrete. He came up with the method to achieve higher concrete strengths that were used in fabricating the pilings for the Causeway.

Also cited were Walter Blessey, another innovator and a Tulane University professor who served as a consultant and provided technical research leading up to the application of prestressed concrete on the Causeway project, the engineering group said. Civil engineer Henry LeMieux, who attended Friday’s ceremony, was recruited by Upson to be the New Orleans district manager for Raymond Concrete, and his work to bring key parties together was instrumental in the project, it said.

Henry LeMieux, left, and Peter Gitz, right, stand next to a plaque designating the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers on Friday. LeMieux was district manager for Raymond Concrete Pile Co. and Gitz worked on an engineering crew for Louisiana Bridge Co. during construction of the Causeway. (Robert Rhoden, | The Times-Picayune)

LeMieux said of the Causeway’s national historic recognition: “It’s marvelous.”

Madisonville Mayor Peter Gitz, who was part of a Louisiana Bridge Co. engineering crew that worked on actual construction of the bridge, also was at Friday’s event. He said that he worked on a barge and was involved in pile driving and taking measurements as the bridge components were assembled.

The work and dealing with the elements was difficult, he said.

“It was cold. It was hot. And the water was rough.”

More than 250 civil engineering projects worldwide have been given National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark status by the ASCE.

Three Louisiana sites carry the designation: the Huey P. Long Bridge, Eads South Pass Navigation Works in Plaquemines Parish and the McNeill Street Pumping Station in Shreveport.

Other attendees at Friday’s event included Causeway Commission Chairman Larry Rase, bridge General Manager Carlton Dufrechou, former General Manager Bob Lambert, St. Tammany Parish Councilman Reid Falconer, Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee Sheng, ASCE New Orleans Branch President Stephen Johns, ASCE National past-president Thomas L. Jackson and Louisiana Section President Robert Jacobsen.

Lambert, addressing the crowd, marveled at the accomplishment of those responsible for building the first span back in 1956.

“People right here in our community did that,” he said. It changed the entire region. It changed how bridges are built.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind. That’s why we’re here today.”

Link to the article:


Ray Reggie

Mandeville, LA

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