The Overpass

Since the early 70s I’ve been riding out to the lakefront by way of Carrollton Avenue or Jefferson Davis Parkway, eventually connecting to Wisner Boulevard which follows Bayou St. John along the eastern edge of City Park all the way out to the lake. Along the way is the Wisner Overpass, built I guess back in the 60s and named, like the boulevard of which it is part, for the Wisner family whose Foundation funded the original road. It originally served only to get traffic over the railroad tracks,Since the early 70s I’ve been riding out to the lakefront by way of Carrollton Avenue or Jefferson Davis Parkway, eventually connecting to Wisner Boulevard which follows Bayou St. John along the eastern edge of City Park all the way out to the lake. Along the way is the Wisner Overpass, built I guess back in the 60s and named, like the boulevard of which it is part, for the Wisner family whose Foundation funded the original road. It originally served only to get traffic over the railroad tracks, but in the early 70s the new Interstate 610 was slipped underneath it as well. I’ve probably ridden across that overpass ten thousand times, and each time I’ve wondered if that would be the time I’d crash on one of the gaping gaps in the crumbling roadbed, or get hit by a car from behind and thrown over the 2-foot high decorative aluminum railing onto Interstate 610 or the railroad tracks below. For about a year after Katrina, a large section of that little railing was missing entirely, and although it would otherwise serve as little more than a fulcrum on one’s way to certain death on the concrete below, the loss of that bit of psychological security was particularly unnerving. For at least the last 40 years the bridge has featured large gaps between the spans, which I assume had settled into their disconnected locations thanks to a somewhat inadequate foundation and the organic soil on which it was built. Anyway, it’s always been a rather uncomfortable traverse but nonetheless the best and quickest option for getting out to Lakeshore Drive. The top of the Wisner Overpass has, for the past few years, served as the finish line for the highly coveted WeMoRi King of the Mountain sprint at around 6:45 am on Wednesdays.  Well, those days are likely over now. The bridge is scheduled for demolition and replacement, and the official start date for the traffic detours was today. So during the cool-down lap of yesterday’s WeMoRi a few of us risked life and limb, stopping at the top of the still-open bridge, for a little group photo to commemorate the event. The new bridge isn’t scheduled to be completed for a year and a half, which seems rather ridiculous to me, but I guess you get what you pay for. Yesterday I went out to meet the WeMoRi, riding all the way out to Elysian Fields without seeing the group, then doing a loop around the fountain, and riding slowly back down Lakeshore Drive.  It wasn’t until I was nearly at Marconi that I finally saw the approaching headlights. Apparently it was a slow morning. The pace remained relatively easy until we got close to the overpass where a few riders were intent on claiming the final WeMoRi KOM. Otherwise, the ride was a bit easier than usual.  I stopped for quite a while at Starbucks with Brian afterward.  Back at work, we had a special meeting with all of the Development office staff, precipitated by the announcement by our Senior VP that she would be resigning effective June 30. She’s been at the university for at least 30 years.  That kind of comes on the heels of impending departures by our CFO who has likewise been here practically forever, and our Provost, along with who knows how many other senior staff members lured away by the current “voluntary separation” program aimed at reducing the deficit. I find it all rather troubling. This morning I met up with the usual group, plus a new rider, Joost, who recently moved here from California and is originally from The Netherlands. The ride was fairly civilized and the weather was warm enough for shorts. We rode along the lake, which had barely a ripple in it, and out to the Metairie bike path, where a gap started to grow right in the middle of the group. As we approached Causeway my inner alarm bells started ringing as the gap reached the point at which closing it could present a problem.  I went to the front and closed it up at around 26 mph before any more damage could be done. I think that’s where we lost Joost. Of course the pace picked up a bit along the lake but never got really out of hand, so it was basically just a typical Thursday morning group ride today.

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