Louisiana is one of the worst states in the country when it comes to bridge upkeep, however, St. Charles Parish is one of the better parishes statewide when is comes to bridge maintenance.
In fact, St. Charles Parish ranks second statewide in bridge maintenance with only four out of 84, or 3.6 percent, of its bridges considered structurally deficient.
Structurally deficient means that parts of a bridge or other structure need to be monitored or repaired, but does not mean it is unsafe or in danger of collapse.
The National Federal Bridge Inventory lists both on ramp bridges onto the Hale Boggs Bridge on I-310, a Paradis bridge located on LA 631/Old Spanish Trail and another bridge on Highway 90 running over a canal at the parish line as the only structurally deficient bridges.
However, after the mainstay wires were changed on the Hale Boggs/I-310 bridge it seems the problems have been addressed with that structure.
Steve Davis, deputy communications director with Washington, D.C.-based transportation policy organization Transportation for America, said looking back at 20 years of data Louisiana is one of more than a dozen states that have gotten worse when it comes to bridge maintenance.
However, in contrast to other states, Louisiana also has a lot of bridges due to being a coastal state and having numerous waterways.
“Every state is certainly a little different. Wyoming is enormous in comparison to Louisiana and it has a third of the structurally deficient bridges,” Davis said. “Wyoming has 3,000 bridges and Louisiana has 13,000.”
Davis said the state must develop a long-range strategy to not only repair bridges that are currently deemed to be structurally deficient, but to also maintain bridges before they deteriorate.
“Repairing a bridge before it becomes structurally deficient is much less costly than repairing a bridge,” he said.
Davis said it is imperative that the state and federal government come together to develop strategies aimed at providing proper maintenance for the state’s bridges and roadways.
“These bridges carry our traffic through all the places we live. They are aging and getting older and the checking is coming due,” Davis said. “We need to be good stewards, whether that is making the repair or replacing the bridge.”
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development refused to release any structural evaluations of bridges due to a law that was recently passed disallowing the agency from sharing that information due to fear of terrorism.
David Goldberg, communications director with Transportation for America, said the state DOTD is required to submit their bridge inspection to a federal database that is open to the public and that it does not make sense that they would not share the information directly with those requesting it.
“Federal law requires that they report that to the national bridge inventory. That is highly unusual,” he said. “If someone is going to blow up a bridge it’s not that hard to blow up a bridge - structurally deficient or not,” he said.