South Central Louisiana
Sunshine Bridge

Named after a popular song written by (then) Governor Jimmie Davis (This is Louisiana, musicians being two-term governors is nothing here).
The first of several bridges over the Mississippi River that would connect competing sugar cane fields (actually was built to replace ferry service)

How the Sunshine Bridge looked when it first opened in 1964. (Republished by the Baton Rouge Advocate 40 years later)

40 years later in person, the bridge off in the distance across a....Sugar cane field (or two).
That road sign does belong there. Just some sloppy color correcting by me there

This is not closer, but futher back than the previous photo of the Sunshine Bridge

Looking head-on at the Sunshine Bridge as I am going northbound (amongst a busload of LSU students) back to Baton Rouge
to escape oncoming Hurricane Katrina.

Was the Sunshine Bridge supposed to be part of something larger?

In the post-war era transportation was seen as important for both commerce and work. At first the federal government was letting the state governments worry about funding. At this time turnpikes/toll roads were seen as the local solution for express highway needs. In Louisiana, their first toll road proposal was the Acadian Thruway in 1953. Designed to go through the swamps of the Atchafalaya Basin while being far enough inland not to be efffect by coastal storms, it would provide a more direct route for those going from New Orleans west to Lafayette (while staying south of Baton Rouge).

The actual route for the Acadian Thruway was to be Lutcher in the east to Lafayette in the west (both locations are approximate) connecting US 61 and US 90. With the establishment of 1956 Highway act (the last impatus to bring about our modern interstate system), funding was designated for a route that was to be present day Interstate 10 (from Lafayette to Baton Rouge to New Orleans). After a last effort to get their highway included amongst the interstate routes was declined, the Acadian Thurway went into mothballs in 1957 (ironiclly the same year, Rand McNally showed the Thruway on their Louisiana maps). Still, parts of that proposal did get built by the Dept. of Transportation and Development. What was to be the Sunshine Bridge (1962-4) was constructed from plans left over from the original Acadian Thruway project. The 1968 5 year transportation plan included 4 lane highways leading to the bridge from Lutcher (which became La 3125, a two lane road) and Donaldsonville (the 4 lane La 3089). Color code system on this map: Red= New 4 lane highway, blue= upgrade 2 lane to 4 lane highway, Green= New 2 lane highway.
From Lousiana 5 year plan for highway construction (taken from the SCLTR Proposal) between Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans in the early 1970s.

In 1965, after the Sunshine bridge was completed, local interests were going to revive the Acadian Thurway proposal in a effort to bring more traffic to the (then Toll) bridge. However, in true Louisiana political fashion, the effort fell apart due to litagation as to which construction firm (the firm from the original contract in the 1950s or the firm that just completed the Sunshine Bridge in the 1960s) was in contract to build the highway and fears that toll revenues would never match the bonds used to fund the construction.

Shortly after the Acadian Thruway was put away for good, a group calling themselves the South Central Louisiana Toll Road Association put out a proposal in 1972 to build two toll roads connecting Morgan City, Houma, and Donaldsonville. This group would have completed US 90's evolution into a limited access facility from Morgan City to Raceland (bypassing Houma to the north) and build a connecting highway north to Donaldsonville and the Sunshine Bridge. This project never made it beyond the report stage and the Houma bypass for US 90 would not be completed for another 30 years. This is the map of proposed routings for the SCLTR. Purple= Alternative Route A, Blue= Alternative B, Green = Alternative Route A1, Grey= Alternative routes that were rejected by the planners for this group. For the Record, US 90 (soon to be I-49) was built following Alt A1 and Alt B.

Source materials here:
South Central Toll Road, published by Howard, Needles, Tammen, and Bergendoff in 1972
Proposed five year highway construction program, published the Louisiana Dept. of transportation and Development in 1968
Baton Rouge (Morning) Advocate
Baton Rouge Times-State
Unless noted otherwise, all photos, on this page, were taken by me


Marty Blase's Louisiana Highway Page

John Weeks' Lower Mississippi River Bridges Page

I-49 from Lafayette to New Orleans (by Stephen Gantry)

Page created on January 11, 2006

Questions, comments, and submissions can be sent to Sandor Gulyas

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