Why does Rex change sides on St. Charles Avenue between Toledano Street and Jackson Avenue? I heard it has to do with somebody living on that side of the street.
You're not the first to ask why the Krewe of Rex makes a strange turn to the other side of the street on St. Charles Avenue. The answer makes complete sense when you think about it: toasting! Rex stops at 2525 St. Charles Ave., once the home of Charles H. Downman, Rex of 1907. There, the current king is toasted, and he toasts all the former kings and queens who have gathered there.
For many years before Mardi Gras of 1971, the parade passed directly in front of 2525 St. Charles Ave. Then the route was changed and the parade started at Napoleon and Claiborne avenues. So, in order to get to the house for the toasting, the entire parade crosses from the river side of St. Charles to the lake side at Toledano Street in order to continue the tradition of toasting there.
I am working on a nonKatrina job, widening the traffic lanes for the Huey P. Long Bridge. I know that Huey Long was quite a character, but what can you tell me about the bridge?
This bridge, the bane of many drivers who must use it, is the longest railroad bridge in the United States. And when we're driving across, it also feels like it's the narrowest.
The bridge opened to traffic on Dec. 16, 1935, but the Southern Pacific Railway had planned a bridge over the Mississippi River as early as 1892. Until completion of the Public Belt Railroad Bridge, all trans-river rail commerce was handled by ferries. This, of course, was very dangerous and delays were common. As highway traffic increased, the necessity of a better way to get both trains and cars across the river became very important.
The proposed bridge of 1892 was never realized due to a financial depression, but no one gave up on the idea. Everyone, however, recognized the difficulties: foundation conditions, navigation clearances, construction hazards and cost.
In 1916, the Public Belt Railroad Commission, owned and operated by the City of New Orleans, obtained through the passage of a constitutional amendment the exclusive power to build and operate a bridge or tunnel across the river at or near New Orleans. A committee was formed to study the matter, and a board of engineers began to investigate the feasibility of the plan. The tunnel was rejected fairly quickly as was an idea of a high-level bridge. But in its report of 1919, the committee did recommend a low-level drawbridge crossing.
In 1924, Ralph Modjeski, an engineer, was asked to help in getting approval from the War Department, but approval for the drawbridge was not granted. The United States engineers recommended either a tunnel or a high-level bridge. Once again the tunnel was rejected, and in 1925 the War Department approved a cantilever bridge. The first pilings were actually driven in June 1925.
After years of delays, partly due to the Great Depression, bonds of the Public Belt Railroad Commission were guaranteed by an agreement between the City of New Orleans, the State of Louisiana and the Southern Pacific Railroad. Finally, on Dec. 30, 1932, the construction contracts were signed. Work began the next day.
After that, construction went quickly and with few delays. High water levels caused some minor interruptions, and in the summer of 1933 there was a general labor strike that lasted for a month.
In just under three years, the bridge became the first Mississippi river span in Louisiana and was named for Huey P. Long, who had been assassinated on Sept. 10, 1935, three months before the bridge was completed.
And finally, after 70 years of white-knuckle driving, we are relieved to know that the bridge is being widened. The project, which began last year, is scheduled to be completed in 2012. The project will add an additional travel lane as well as inside and outside shoulders to each side of the bridge. Old Blake will be so grateful.