By Zach Fitzgerald | LSU Student
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development expects to begin work on more than $208 million worth of replacements and repairs during the 2012-2013 fiscal year following recent legislative approval for the funding.
DOTD Public Information Officer Dustin Annison said the DOTD has 65 proposed projects, both state and city/parish owned bridges, ready to go if the current Legislature approves the funding.
Catahoula, Lafourche, Ouachita and St. James parishes are among the parishes with the most expensive upcoming bridge projects.
DOTD Structures and Facilities Administrator David Miller, who is charge of the bridge maintenance department, said the DOTD is responsible for inspecting the more than 13,000 bridges in use in Louisiana. Approximately 8,000 of the structures are owned by the state, the remaining 5,000 by parishes or cities.
Miller said DOTD generally inspects each bridge once every two years, some more often. "The poorer the condition (of a bridge), the more frequent the (inspections.)"
Normally, the state does not put out of service completely bridges being serviced unless they have low use or a convenient detour is available.
Miller said local entities are responsible for the repair or replacement of bridges they own, adding that the state conducts most of the inspections for the cities and parishes. The state replaces roughly 20 to 30 bridges a year, Miller said.
The state's worst problem bridge, said Miller, is the mile and a half stretch of twin bridges on U.S. 90 east of Morgan City. Inspectors recently found cracks in the support beams. Timber bridges, some 1,800 strong in Louisiana, require the most attention, he noted, because the timber rots over time.
Starting in May 2012, said Annison, work will begin on repainting and repairing the U. S. Highway 190 Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge, adding that the project is expected to take two years.
Annison said the DOTD is currently working several large-scale projects, the largest being the $1.2 billion widening project on the Huey P. Long Bridge in New Orleans, which is expected to be completed by mid-2013. Annison called it the most expensive bridge renovation ever undertaken by the state.
Another major project in progress, Annison said, is the $82.9 million replacement of the Fort Buhlow Bridge on U.S. 71 that crosses the Red River between Alexandria and Pineville. Expected completion is January 2014.
Total funding in those cases are spread over several fiscal years.