John Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 27, 2011

Photographer Michael Maples snapped a photo of the missing rail supports and we passed by in a bus over the Bonnet Carre spillway Tuesday. The concrete structure in the foreground is the eastbound section of Interstate 10, about 10 miles west of Kenner. See column facing page.

Force of water’s flow damages rail trestle in spillway

The return trip from New Orleans on the Amtrak took a curious twist starting with a phone call that my wife answered Monday afternoon. She came outside and told me the recorded message from Amtrak mentioned something about “alternative transportation.”

When I called Amtrak for information, they said that a bus would transport passengers from New Orleans to Hammond to board the train. A section of elevated span over the Bonnet Carre spillway had washed away, I learned.

So on Tuesday when I arrived at New Orleans’ Union Station, there were two chartered buses which ferried the would-be train passengers to their train waiting at Hammond. Once the northbound train left the station the waiting southbound Amtrak off-loaded its passengers to board the empty buses back to New Orleans.

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I recalled that on the southbound trip Saturday, one passenger near me looked at that water rushing through the Bonnet Carre spillway from the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain and had expressed her hope that the bridge span had been built strong enough to withstand the force of that rushing water.

On Amtrak’s southbound run the next day, the engineer reported a “rough ride” passing over the water and, according to the Times-Picayune, notified rail owner Canadian National. Repairs are reportedly under way.

Another passenger on Tuesday’s train was New Orleans photographer and videographer Mike Maples, who snapped photos of the missing bridge supports as we passed by in the bus.