Sheriff says DOTD traffic plan will worsen bridge congestion

Road work will tie up bridge traffic for 6 months

With road upgrade work on the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge to begin Sunday, St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne chastised the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) for excluding local agencies from providing input in a traffic re-routing plan that could cause substantial additional traffic congestion.

The major part of the $24 million project, the road resurfacing on the 33-year-old bridge, is scheduled to begin Sunday and be completed by mid-June, according to the DOTD.

The southbound I-310 from U.S. 61 (Airline Highway) to LA 3127 will be reduced to one lane starting at 8 p.m. Sunday for the bridge deck and overlay project. Significant traffic delays are anticipated during the morning and evening peak hours.

Alternate routes for crossing the Mississippi River are the U.S. 90 (Huey P. Long Bridge) or the LA 3213 (Veterans Memorial Bridge) in the Gramercy-Wallace area.

The project will occur in two stages and include the closure first of the southbound lanes and later the closure of the northbound lanes. The side not under construction will be converted to three lanes with one for southbound travel and two for northbound travel.

There will be closures of some of the on-ramps and off-ramps on each side of the bridge which will be reversed as the work moves from the northbound lanes to the southbound lanes midway during the project.

C.E.C. Inc. of Lafayette, which specializes in bridge work and earlier worked o the bridge joints, is doing the work. According to Champagne, “While this is not the first time this has occurred over the years, the construction and traffic plan devised by DOTD is different this year and will result in what we believe will be substantial additional traffic congestion in St. Charles Parish on highways in addition to I-310. “Especially during peak traffic hours, residents of St. Charles Parish can expect significant traffic congestion and delays at several locations on both the east and west banks.”

When contacted on Monday, the DOTD stated it was preparing a detailed map showing the changes and timeline.

Champagne said the resurfacing project is important to the area, but he stringently maintained the DOTD’s planning process excluded local input and he was taking his complaint to the state level.

Substantial funds had already been dedicated to the prep work with the project and the DOTD committed to its final plan “without further changes despite our requests for reconsideration,” he said.

“I do intend to make our new governor and newly appointed secretary of DOTD aware of my concerns for future planning and the need to include local emergency responders and government agencies in this planning.”

Champagne further states, “We all understand that any type of road repair will include traffic backups and inconvenient delays. However, I would have hoped that DOTD officials would have shared the detailed traffic re-routing plan and sought input with local officials long before it was finalized. We feel we could have provided valuable information to them as to both collateral traffic impact as well as emergency response issues. For whatever reasons, they chose not to.”

The sheriff also cited the potential to the Sheriff’s Office for deputies needed to help control traffic on highways other than the affected area of I-310, which he stated “was not considered at all.”

The DOTD 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.

Champagne said local agencies have begun meeting to plan for the traffic challenges coming with the resurfacing work on the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge that is scheduled to begin Sunday.

“These meetings have included members of our legislative delegation as well as school district, hospital and parish officials,” he said. “My office is currently working on a video presentation to help citizens visualize and understand the details of this project. It is clear that we will all need to exercise a lot of patience and drive very carefully this spring.”

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