At 5.8 miles long, Norfolk Southern’s Lake Pontchartrain Bridge in Louisiana is the longest railroad bridge in the country and the longest railroad bridge over water in the world. Packed with 180 million pounds of concrete and 102 miles of steel and concrete pilings, it is a major rail thoroughfare of the South, with freight and passenger trains traversing it daily between Slidell and the port of New Orleans.
Train tonnage is not the only weight this bridge carries. It also bears the extreme Louisiana heat, humidity, wind, salt, water, and sun. The bridge has weathered many storms, including the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when teams of our workers rallied in the aftermath to reconstruct the mangled bridge’s track and ballast in an impressive 16 days.
These extreme climate factors make regular maintenance of the bridge imperative to keep it intact and trains on the track, and ensuring this crucial span’s operability poses a challenge unlike any other bridge on our system.
Our T&S-1 super tie and surfacing gang recently proved themselves up to the task. For just over a week in late December, the gang’s roughly 65 members – some of our finest Engineering Department employees – converged on the bridge to replace over 8,500 railroad ties. The overhaul was the first of this magnitude since the post-Katrina rebuild, and the project required all hands on deck. With skill and grit, the T&S-1 crew worked methodically to overhaul the bridge.