What later became known as the Crescent City Connection was the second bridge to span the Mississippi south of Baton Rouge after the Huey P. Long Bridge a few miles up river from the city, and the first bridge across the river in New Orleans itself.
The Mississippi River Bridge Authority, known since 1989 as the Crescent City Connection Division (CCCD), began construction of the first span in November 1954, which opened in April 1958 as the Greater New Orleans Bridge. At its opening, the bridge was the longest cantilever bridge in the world, although in terms of main span length it was third after the Forth Bridge and the Quebec Bridge. It carried two lanes of traffic in each direction, and spurred growth in the suburban area known as the West Bank (for its location on the western bank of the river; it is geographically southeast of New Orleans). Construction of the second span began in March 1981. Despite promises that it would be ready for the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition, it did not open to traffic until September 1988. The second span was originally designated as the Greater New Orleans Bridge No. 2. Both bridges were designed by Modjeski & Masters, Inc.. As soon as the new span was opened, the old span was temporarily closed in phases to replace the asphalt-on-steel deck with concrete. All the exits and entrances to the bridge were replaced as well.
After completion of the second span, a public contest was held in 1989 to rename the bridges, which was won by Jennifer Grodsky of St. Clement of Rome School in Metairie, Louisiana, on March 17. The name was selected over the second place finisher, the Greater New Orleans Superspan, as the name for the spans. Other names voted on for the naming of the spans included: the Crescent City Twins, the Delta Twins, the Crescent City Bridge, the New Orleans Metro Span, the Crescent City Gateway, the Crescent City Twin Span, the Crescent City River Bridge, The Big Easy and the Li'l Easy, the Jazz City Bridge, the Big East Twin Spans, The Pelican Bridge, the Fleur-de-Lis, the Greater Mississippi River Bridge, the Unity Bridge, the Mississippi River Twins, The Friendship Connection, The Pelican Pride, the Riverview Bridge, the Creole Crossing, the Jazz Gate Bridge, the Greater New Orleans Twin Bridges, and the Crescent Bend Bridge.
Following this contest, the Louisiana Legislature officially designated the bridges as the Crescent City Connection. It is maintained and policed by the CCCD, a special division of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development which since 1989 has controlled all Mississippi River crossings in Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Bernard Parishes. A separate police agency, commonly nicknamed the "Bridge Police", is required because of the high traffic volume and the fact that the two spans briefly cross into Jefferson Parish and the city of Gretna; therefore, it could not be policed solely by the New Orleans Police Department. In spite of the decades past since the renaming of the bridges, local residents commonly refer to the bridge as "The GNO" where the proper name of "Crescent City Connection" is used mainly in media.
Due to the Mississippi River's winding course through the New Orleans area (the river is flowing north at the place where the two bridges cross), the eastbound span actually carries Business US 90 West, while the westbound span carries Business US 90 East. The Crescent City Connection is the fifth most traveled toll bridge in the United States, with annual traffic exceeding 63 million vehicles (approximately 180,000 daily).
The bridge is the center piece of the Crescent Connection Road Race (CCRR) or Bridge Race as it is locally known, an annual event held on the first Saturday in September following Labor Day. The bridge remains open to vehicular traffic during the race, which only uses the two HOV lanes. The CCRR was originally started as a fundraiser for the bridge's decorative lights. These lights line the top profile lines of both bridges; 64 lights along each string for a total 256 lights.
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