Engineers Blow Up Historic Red River Bridge At Alexandria

ALEXANDRIA, LA (AP) — After 79 years, the O.K. Allen Bridge linking Alexandria and Pineville is gone.

         Engineers blew the bridge's superstructure into 14 pieces at 8 a.m. Saturday, the Town Talk’s Richard Sharkey reports, with the span crashing into the Red River seconds after a thunderous roar of explosives.

         Eddy Lashney of Pineville was among the approximately 200 people who lined the Alexandria side of the levee to witness history.

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         He had previously witnessed the demolition of the Murray Street Bridge and Fulton Street Bridge, both of which connected Alexandria and Pineville before they were replaced.

         "I've been privileged and somewhat saddened to see history transpire right here in town. Progress is a wonderful thing. We always want to keep moving forward, but it's always a little touching to see a piece of history, something that's literally been there your whole life, gone in just a few seconds," Lashney said.

         He said he was amazed at how quickly a landmark structure could disappear.

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         "In the blink of an eye, that's it. It's over," Lashney said.

         The bridge closed in March when the first span of the Curtis-Coleman Memorial Bridge opened, carrying U.S. 71 across the river. The first span is handling two-way traffic until the second span is completed, which is expected to be by Jan. 1.

         John Gagnard, the project engineer for the bridge replacement project, said the demolition went smoothly and as expected.

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         The boom of the explosion, which could be heard as far away as Grant Parish, startled many of those watching the demolition, including Gagnard.

         "It was a little bit stronger blast than I expected, to be honest with you. It had a pretty good concussion to it and a loud sound. It was impressive," he said.

         The concrete from the O.K. Allen Bridge had previously been removed, as had the ramps leading to the main span. The mangled remains of the bridge will be fished from the river and sold as scrap. The concrete piers that held the bridge will be demolished later.

         Oscar K. Allen was Louisiana's governor from 1932 to 1936.

         Maxine Fletcher of Alexandria was sorry to see the demise of the bridge because her father, F.C. Blake of Montgomery, worked on the bridge. She said her father made a board with "1936" on it, stamping the year into the concrete on the bridge railing.

         "He took me there and showed it to me," said Fletcher, who was 8 years old when the bridge opened that year.

         When she heard the bridge would be demolished, "it was kind of nostalgic to me," Fletcher said. "It's a landmark. It's just a landmark that we have a part in it."

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