State Route 1 in Louisiana
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State Route 1 or State Highway 1 is a state route in the U.S. state of Louisiana. The road forms a long north-south route through the western half of the state, from Grand Isle on the Gulf of Mexico to the Texas border at Rodessa. The road passes right by the capital, Baton Rouge, and through the cities of Alexandria and Shreveport. State Route 1 is 696 kilometers long.
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Mississippi River Delta
State Route 1 begins in Grand Isle, an elongated beach village on the Grand Isle of the same name on the Gulf of Mexico. State Route 1 is the southernmost road in the state of Louisiana here. The two-lane road first heads west parallel to the coast to the Port Fourchon oil port and then heads north. The road then crosses Highway 1 elevated road, a 29-kilometer bridge spanning the Mississippi River delta. State Route 1 here runs well west of the river itself, but nearly all of Louisiana’s coastal region is low-lying land that floods at high tide.
State Route 1 then begins its long way across the west bank of the Bayou Lafourche, a bayou and tributary of the Mississippi Delta. State Route 308 runs parallel to State Route 1 on the east bank. From Golden Meadow, there is lengthy ribbon development along State Route 1, parts are therefore bypassed by faster routes parallel to it. Most towns along the Bayou Lafourche are not large, but the road leads through ribbon development for almost 130 kilometers. The only larger town on the route is Thibodaux and the US 90 crosses at Raceland. The area surrounding the Bayou Lafourche consists of agricultural land, a strip of developed land in the swamps that widens towards the north.
At Donaldsonville, the Bayou Lafourche ends and State Route 1 runs along the Mississippi River. The road is a bit better developed here and cuts off some meanders. From Plaquemine the road has 2×2 lanes. At Port Allen is an interchange with Interstate 10, near the capital Baton Rouge. North of Port Allen, US 190 joins, followed by a 25-mile double-numbering westward, still near the Mississippi River. The road then leads around an old meander of the Mississippi River to New Roads. State Route 1 is single-lane here and heads northwest. From Simmesport one leaves the course of the Mississippi River.
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State Route 1 then heads northwest through several villages to the city of Alexandria. The road leads through relatively little forest area, but the area is flat. The road here follows the course of the Red River. State Route 1 passes through downtown Alexandria and then parallels Interstate 49.
On the first half of Alexandria and Shreveport, State Route 1 and I-49 follow each other for a relatively short distance, on the second half of the route the two roads diverge a little further. State Route 1 continuously follows the course of the Red River until Shreveport. The road therefore does not lead through wooded areas as much as the I-49. The largest town between Alexandria and Shreveport is Natchitoches, which has a western bypass.
One then reaches the city of Shreveport from the southeast, where the road is first a 2×2 divided highway, and further in the built-up area is designed as a five-lane road with center turn lane. The road passes through Downtown Shreveport and intersects with Interstate 20. On the north side of Shreveport one crosses Interstate 220 and a little further outside Shreveport Interstate 49.
From Shreveport, the road heads north through far northwest Louisiana. This section is further away from the Red River, but parallel to I-49. The road here leads through densely wooded area, with the villages of Oil City and Vivian still on the route. Practically at the tristate point with Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas, State Route 1 merges into State Route 77 in Texas heading toward Atlanta.
The current State Route 1 was created in 1955 during the great Louisiana renumbering of that year. The original 1924 State Route 1 ran from Pointe a la Hache (southeast of New Orleans ) to the Texas border near Shreveport and also ran diagonally through Louisiana, largely following the later 1955 route. Only in the southeast and far northwest did the original 1924 State Route 1 follow a different route than the 1955 connection.
Although the road has a low number, it serves relatively few major cities directly. The road passes not far from the capital city of Baton Rouge, but continues only through Alexandria and Shreveport. The road connects the oil port of Port Fourchon on the Gulf of Mexico with the oil fields around Shreveport in the northwest part of the state. State Route 1 is a critical outcrop of the western Mississippi River Delta at the southern end, it is the only road in the region and therefore vital to the villages and oil and gas installations in the region. It is also the only connection to Grand Isle, which is often one of the first places in Louisiana to be evacuated in the event of an approaching tropical storm or hurricane.
The 170-kilometer stretch from Port Fourchon to Donaldsonville runs over the western embankment of the Bayou Lafourche, a former tributary of the Mississippi River. The Bayou Lafourche was dammed off at Donaldsonville in 1905, so that it actually became a sea-level canal. There is significant ribbon development on this route. The road leads here for 130 kilometers through ribbon development, and is therefore sometimes referred to as the ‘longest Main Street in the world’.
Further north in Louisiana, Interstate 49 is constructed parallel to State Route 1 between Alexandria and Shreveport. This Interstate Highway is relatively new, having been largely opened in the first half of the 1990s. In 1996, the highway was completed and State Route 1 no longer had any through importance in this region. Later, I-49 was also built north of Shreveport to the Arkansas border, but that part mainly relieves US 71. Most of this section was completed in 2014, except close to Shreveport.
Importance to the oil industry
State Route 1 is critical to America’s energy supply. Port Fourchon is where about 18% of US oil comes in and about 90% of the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico are supplied from Port Fourchon. There are 600 oil rigs within 40 miles of Port Fourchon. State Route 1 is the only road that can reach Port Fourchon. Port Fourchon was spared major damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The road was designated a High Priority Corridor by Congress in 2001 and was the only one to be designated a critical energy infrastructure. A scenario where State Route 1 would be closed for 90 days due to hurricane damage would inflict economic damage of nearly $8 billion.
The land in the Mississippi River Delta is very low and there is significant subsidence, which often causes State Route 1 to flood during a relatively weak tropical storm and places like Grand Isle are no longer accessible by road. To tackle that problem, a viaduct road has been constructed, the 29 kilometer long Highway 1 elevated road, the first part of which opened in 2009.
Grand Isle has about 1,300 inhabitants, but is one of the few coastal towns in Louisiana with accessible sandy beaches and is therefore popular with tourists. In summer, the number of tourists can approach 20,000. Grand Isle is approximately 2 hours from New Orleans. Grand Isle has been repeatedly damaged or destroyed by hurricanes. It is exposed on a small island and can flood in strong hurricanes. Several times the entire island was submerged by uplift water from tropical storms or hurricanes. Many homes on Grand Isle were rebuilt on stilts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with the first floor being the living room. Due to the ease with which State Route 1 floods and the long travel time to higher ground, Grand Isle is often the first place on the Gulf of Mexico to be evacuated.