Retailers say bridge work hurting business

At River Road Market, store owner David Matherne calls the upgrade work on Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge progress but the heavier traffic is also driving customers away.

“It’s been inconvenient for shoppers to get here and just in general the traffic issues are everyday,” Matherne said of Destrehan. “People are coming and complaining about it. It’s definitely not helping.”

Only a week after contractor C.E.C Inc. of Lafayette rerouted traffic on the bridge to start the second phase of the state Department of Transportation and Development project, Matherne and neighboring retailers say they’re feeling the change in lost business.

Matherne estimated the route change has cut into his business 15 to 20 percent. Some customers have told him they’re taking Airline Highway to bypass traffic congestion so they’re shopping at his competitors like Winn-Dixie.

He’s seeing the inconvenience of heavier traffic and backups affecting his business, especially in the afternoons, but Matherne also called it’s just something everyone has to deal with for progress.

The $24 million resurfacing project on the cable-stayed bridge began in October with a projected completion date of mid-June. In February, the northbound span was closed while the two northbound travel lanes were switched to the southbound span and again with the one southbound lane open.

This month, all traffic was switched to the northbound span with two northbound lanes and a southbound lane open.

The project mainly calls for deck overlay and repairs, draining structures, laying new asphalt, patching pavement, bridge repairs, steel deck epoxy underlayment, as well as installing steel-fiber reinforced concrete overlay.

The bridge is part of Interstate 310 through St. Charles Parish and accommodates more than 70,000 vehicles on a week day.

Based on a 2012 traffic study, DOTD officials say heaviest traffic is likely from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“Sometimes to have progress, you have to be inconvenienced,” he added.

At Bayou Pets in Ormond Center Court, store manager Amy Kelso said they’ve also seen a lull in business in the last two weeks.

“It feels like it’s been half,” Kelso estimated on how much traffic congestion may be cutting into their business.

And the situation may worsen in the area as the parish’s resurfacing work begins, which Kelso said could hit them twice.

“There are quite a number of customers from Luling and Boutte not coming now because the traffic is horrible,” Kelso said. “People are definitely complaining.”The general hope is both projects will not last longer than anticipated, she said.

“It’s become a big problem,” she said of traffic congestion in the area. “They say they’re not coming to the country club in Destrehan here as much because of bridge traffic and having to sit there.”


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