Remember when the Calcasieu River Bridge was a priority issue for Clay Higgins, back when he was running for office? Even after winning, Rep. Higgins continued to pledge his support for a new bridge, going so far as to equate it with the Oroville Dam disaster in California.

In fact, Higgins repeatedly claimed that he was a “loud proponent of a new bridge”…right up until he toured the site in early March and spoke with DOTD officials, that is.

In a stark about-face, Higgins revealed that he suddenly no longer believes the bridge is in any way dangerous. Now he says it only seems old and foreboding, but that it’s actually quite safe. And, while he says he would still like to see a new bridge at some point, it’s really not necessary right now.

“Right now,” said Higgins, “the prospect of moving forward with a new bridge is not promising.”

Citing the environmental contamination from the Condea Vista ethylene dichloride leak as one of the main reasons a new bridge isn’t likely to happen, Higgins doubled down on just how safe he now believes the bridge to be, now that he’s won his seat and begun prioritizing other infrastructure projects, such as the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

“Now the soundness of the bridge, I’m convinced by speaking to men that I know and by many conversations and examining the bridge myself with the engineers, I’m confident that the bridge itself is sound. That the bridge is not subject to fall down.”

Although Higgins goes on to talk about how we do, in fact, need a new bridge “for many reasons”, it all sounds like a lot of lip service with no action. After all, how many years have we heard how many politicians say something along the lines of, "I know we need a new bridge in Lake Charles, BUT..."?

The longer officials continue to repeat the claim that the bridge is safe, the less likely it becomes that anything will ever happen on the project.

But repeating a lie doesn’t make it true, no matter how many times you say it. The powers-that-be keep telling us the bridge is safe, but they never elaborate on what makes it safe, despite all evidence to the contrary. What do they know that contradicts everything the rest of us see?

The DOTD, the city, the state, and Rep. Higgins can tell us the bridge is safe and structurally sound all they want, but the fact remains that the National Bridge Inventory Database doesn’t seem to agree.

  • Status: Structurally Deficient
  • Deck: Serious Condition
  • Superstructure: Serious Condition
  • Substructure: Serious Condition
  • Structural Evaluation: Basically intolerable requiring high priority of corrective action
  • Sufficiency Rating: 6.6%

Does that sound like the bridge is safe to anyone who isn’t trying to sell you a little infrastructure snake oil? Keep in mind that the Sufficiency Rating is 6.6% out of 100%, which is pretty awful. But more than that, the Superstructure and Substructure are identified as being in “Serious Condition” and the whole thing is "Structurally Deficient" - but don’t let that worry you. Everything’s fine. The bridge is structurally sound and not at all deficient. Somehow.

Yep. Higgins says the bridge is just peachy keen now, after he campaigned on replacing it because it was so dangerous he felt the need to compare it to a failure of infrastructure in California that resulted in a 250-foot-long collapse of the state’s principal spillway, which led to the evacuation of over 180,000 people.

But after just one visit to the bridge and some head nods and handshakes, there’s nothing to worry about anymore. The bridge is super safe now. No problem!

Oh, sure. We sure could use a new bridge at some point, the politicians tell us, but that’s on down the line. We don’t need to do something right now or anything. You know, since the bridge is only dangerous when people are trying to get elected.

After that, we’re on our own.

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