River Road closure could last 45 days

Corps to hold public meeting on June 9

June 04, 2010 at 8:55 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

If the Army Corps of Engineers decides to elevate River Road on the east side of the Davis Pond Diversion in Ama, it could cause the road to be closed for 45 days, according to Renè Pochè, with the Corps’ public affairs office.

As part of the Western Tie-In, the Corps will have to “tie in” the West Bank and Vicinity hurricane levee with the existing Mississippi River levee in Ama. The Corps was at first going to use a rolling floodgate that would close River Road when a storm approaches. Since that meant that the road would be blocked during hurricane evacuations, the Corps has instead proposed elevating the road to the height of the levee at the crossing.

“The earthen ramp is the proposed action, pending approval by the district commander,” Pochè said. “A tentative schedule is showing that LA-18 (River Road) would be closed for 45 days, approximately 90 days after Notice to Proceed is issued.”

Pochè said the Notice to Proceed is tentatively scheduled for the end of August, and by the time the contractor starts work, the Corps is estimating River Road would be closed from the end of October to early December.

“Again, these dates are not approximate and subject to change with weather being a factor,” Pochè added.

If River Road is closed, the only way to get to Ama from the west would be to take Highway 90 and connect to River Road in Avondale, which would add about 30 minutes to the commute. Jason Tastet, a senior emergency coordinator for St. Charles Parish, said that the parish has already prepared an emergency plan in case the road is closed and that it would have “absolutely no effect” on emergency responders’ ability to reach Ama.

“Our concerns lie with the general public,” he said.

St. Charles Parish Public Schools spokeswoman Rochelle Cancienne-Touchard said that a closure would have a big impact on bus transportation for students.

“We believe that diverting the buses to Highway 90 from Ama would add an extra 30 minutes of commute time each way for those students,” she said. “They would have to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to school on time.”

Students from Ama attend Hahnville High School, R.K. Smith Elementary School, Luling Elementary School and the Eual J. Landry Alternative School.

But it won’t just take longer for those students to get to school, it will also be dangerous, Cancienne-Touchard said.
“It’s a huge safety concern,” she said. “We would be rerouting school buses to a road that is heavily traveled by large trucks and vehicles.

“If the Corps is indeed going to go forward with elevating River Road, we just wish they would have made the decision earlier so that the work could take place during the summer months.”

And Cancienne-Touchard said that a 45-day closure could easily last much longer.

“There are typical setbacks when you are dealing with construction, including weather, and that could make the process last longer than 45 days,” she said. “We are just worried about getting these kids out of their normal routine. It creates a domino effect and other things could be affected as well.”

To remedy that problem, Cancienne-Touchard said the schools hope that the Corps can create a safe, alternative route for the school buses.

Councilman Shelley Tastet agrees, saying that though any closure of River Road would affect all residents who live in Ama, he and other public officials are worried about the children.

“If the Corps knew that closing River Road was a possibility, they should have planned to elevate the road during the summer,” Tastet said. “It’s all about the kids, and all it takes is one of those big trucks on Highway 90 to hit a school bus and we are going to have a major problem.”

To address the situation, the Corps will hold a public meeting on June 9 at Cytec’s Tom Call Pavilion, located at 10800 River Road in Waggaman. An open house will begin at 6 p.m. and the presentation will start at 6:30 p.m.

The Western Tie-In is a 4-mile system of levees and floodwalls that will follow the contour of the Davis Pond Diversion from the Lake Cataouatche levee south of Waggaman to the Mississippi River levee near Ama. The new levee is expected to protect the western end of west Jefferson and Ama from storm surge coming up the Barataria Basin through Lakes Cataouatche and Salvador. It is scheduled to be completed in 2011.

The Corps needs the tie-in to close a 4-mile gap in the 66-mile West Bank storm-surge protection system.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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