Bridge-wise, we'll fall to No. 2

The state of Louisiana is building the John James Audubon Bridge over the Mississippi River. When it's completed in 2010, it will take the Ravenel Bridge's place as the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America. With a main span of 1,583 feet, it wi

Louisiana building a longer span 'on purpose'

We spend $630 million on a bridge and then find out we should've kicked in that extra 39 cents to supersize it.

Brag while you can, because the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge will be the longest cable-stayed bridge in the country only for another two years.

Right now, the state of Louisiana is building the John James Audubon Bridge over the Mississippi River — and it's going to be 37 feet longer than ours.

Thirty-seven feet. That's nothing, like two Mount Pleasant minivans.

"They did that on purpose," said Dana Newsome, spokesperson for the Louisiana TIMED Managers, the company running the state's infrastructure building program.

Turns out Louisiana hired away some of the guys who built our bridge, and they decided to outdo themselves. The Ravenel's main span is 1,546 feet; the Audubon will be 1,583 feet.

Showoffs.

The bridge will cross the river between the towns of New Roads, population 4,876, and St. Francisville, population 1,700 or so. Right now, folks either take a ferry across the river or drive about an hour out of their way.

The wait for this bridge has been so long that local resident Melinda Foil said it's the way natives distinguish themselves from the transplants: If you believe that bridge is coming, "you're not from here."

Now the towns are just waiting on that spring or summer 2010 opening. And St. Francisville Mayor Billy D'Aquilla said he's real sorry the town is swiping our bridge record.

"Y'all can always say you're No. 2," he jokes.

"I believe we can find some way to stretch it," Mount Pleasant Town Administrator Mac Burdette said. "I guess if there's a place that needs something good, it's Louisiana."

While the Audubon Bridge will be longer between the towers, and long overdue, it won't have all the bells and whistles of the Ravenel. It'll have just four lanes, no bike path, and "H" towers, instead of those diamonds. Of course, it'll only cost $346 million as a result.

"I don't know what's at each end of that bridge, but it can't beat Mount Pleasant and Charleston," Burdette said.

That's the message from Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, who most graciously and diplomatically wishes the bridge-builders in Louisiana all the best.

"The goal in the Ravenel Bridge was not to build the longest cable-stay bridge," Riley said. "Our goal was to build a beautiful bridge, and I can't imagine any bridge being more beautiful or having a better view."

That's true, but it was still cool to have the biggest one. Next thing you know, they'll be stealing our bridge run too.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com or 937-5561.