Here’s when the speed cameras will be installed on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge
An eye in the sky will eventually mark Louisiana drivers speeding over the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge connecting Lafayette and Baton Rouge, but motorists will first notice live speed monitoring signs in the coming weeks.
Louisiana’s top cop, State Police Superintendent Lamar Davis, is among those who should take note after he was pulled over for speeding earlier this month on the bridge, but was released with a warning by the one of his own soldiers.
“I have to slow my butt down,” Davis told WAFB.
And so will most other motorists traveling down one of the state’s most treacherous corridors after Gov. John Bel Edwards signed Republican Senate President Lafayette Page Cortez’s bill into law this summer. .
In 2021, there were 269 accidents which resulted in 89 injuries and two deaths on the bridge, more than double the number of accidents a decade ago, said the secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Development of Louisiana, Shawn Wilson.
The new law creates a “traffic safety corridor” on the 18-mile Interstate 10 Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, increasing signage, installing cameras and doubling fines.
Wilson told USA Today Network that his agency will install the speed monitoring signs by this fall “with the goal of modifying behavior before we start applying the cameras.”
He said it could be next year before surveillance cameras are installed to catch speeding motorists.
“What this will ultimately do is save lives,” Wilson said.
Cortez said reckless speeding and distracted driving create too many crippling and sometimes fatal crashes in the hallways.
“Too many people are being injured and killed for us to do nothing,” he said. “I spent 15 years in (the Capitol) and never introduced a bill that got more attention than this one.”
Cortez walks the bridge almost daily on his commute between his Lafayette home and Baton Rouge.
Wilson and Cortez attribute the spike to increased speed and distracted driving with cellphones. The two said motorists are more likely to speed over the bridge because they know there are no safe shoulders for police to pull over and monitor speeds in person.
“If you park police units in certain places, they’re within 18 inches of an 18-wheeler, which puts them over the edge,” the Senate speaker said.
Cortez’s bill would double speeding fines and use camera technology to catch speeders on the bridge. The speed limit would remain at 55 mph for commercial trucks and 60 mph for other vehicles.
Drivers caught speeding would first receive a notice, followed by a warning for the second offense and a fine for the third and subsequent offenses.
About 80,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Louisiana Network. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1