The Times-Picayune reports ( http://bit.ly/1bB5PpE) the bridge commission voted unanimously Thursday to authorize General Manager Carlton Dufrechou to negotiate a contract with the institute.
Under the contract, Dufrechou said the institute will come up with designs to improve the concrete retaining walls and perform tests to determine if their designs can withstand the impact of a vehicle. Officials from the institute have already visited the bridge, where 10 vehicles have gone over the walls on the southbound span in the past 20 years, including three this year.
Their preliminary ideas for the southbound bridge include installing steel posts atop the existing concrete wall, Dufrechou said.
The institute will come up with a number of options, and the best of them will be installed on sections of the unused ramps at the old 9-mile turnaround on the southbound span. Then, each of the options will be put to the test. Equipment will be used to apply pressure on the new designs to see how they hold up, Dufrechou said.
With two 24-mile spans, about 100 miles of retaining wall would be involved.
"The job of this is to save lives and keep the vehicles on the bridge," Dufrechou told commissioners Thursday. He said he would have a better idea of the cost of improving the retaining walls in about a year.
Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com