Increased traffic on the Jimmie Davis Bridge has prompted discussion about improving this busy link between Shreveport and Bossier City.
By Lani Duke
Major repairs to the Jimmie Davis Bridge are quickly giving way, although authorities had proclaimed that the 2009 construction project had prolonged the structure's life for many years to come. The bridge, built in 1968 to connect Shreveport and Bossier City via Highway 511 (Shreveport's East 70th Street), currently carries nearly 28,000 vehicles a day across the Red River. Traffic to the half-mile-long, two-lane span may back up for two miles at 5 p.m.
A 2011 inspection gave the bridge an unfavorable report, rating the deck condition as poor (4 out of 9) and the substructure as fair (5 out of 9). The Louisiana Department of Transportation is considering upgrading the bridge to a four-lane, eliminating the bottleneck of a two-lane link in a 5.35-mile, five-lane roadway between LA 523 and Barksdale Boulevard (US 71).
West Bossier, at the eastern end of the bridge, is growing rapidly, and the number of cars using the bridge is expected to increase. Not only has the number of vehicles crossing the span increased, but expectations for a bridge across a major waterway, connecting two urbanized residential and business hubs, have changed. Today's drivers want safety shoulders; pedestrians and bicyclists want trail connectors.
Plans for the bridge would double the vehicular capacity from a pair of 12-foot-wide lanes to two in each direction. Ideally, the new bridge would contain 4-foot inside shoulders and 8-foot outside shoulders, plus a shared bicycle-pedestrian use trail connecting into the existing Arthur Ray Teague Parkway and Clyde Fant Parkway trails.
However, there are other alternatives to simply widening the bridge as it now exists. The state DOT is considering whether to build a new crossing for traffic in both directions and for the shared use trail, or whether to build a new bridge for either westbound traffic or perhaps even all motorized traffic, leaving the current structure for the shared use trail.
Who is Jimmie Davis?
Named for James (Jimmie) Houston Davis, twice governor of Louisiana, the Jimmie Davis Bridge is a symbol of both musical and gubernatorial history. Composer of the Louisiana state song "You Are My Sunshine," Davis wrote and sang both sacred and popular songs. A twist of a radio dial might have brought Davis' voice into kitchens and living rooms across the U.S. from the 1930s through the early 1960s with occasional performances into the '90s; he was a member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Davis served his home state as governor from 1944 to 1948 and again from 1960 to 1964.