BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Department of Public Works handed out a study on East Baton Rouge Parish's bridges Wednesday, revealing that many are in need of repair.
Of the parish's 278 bridges, 87 are rated as in poor condition or worse and at least nine are closed.
"These bridges, when they go down, that's an emergency," said Councilman Trae Welch at Wednesday's Metro Council meeting.
Welch said that when bridges are closed, it puts people in danger. Ambulances and fire crews are forced to take detours, delaying their ability to help people in need.
"It is not just a convenience. It is truly a public safety nightmare when you have to go farther, and people are put at risk with that," said Welch.
Currently, the parish only has one crew devoted strictly to repairing bridges. As a result, sometimes bridges can be out of commissions for weeks while waiting for repairs.
Others, like one on East Garfield Road that traverses Corporation Canal, have been closed for years. It is slated to be replaced, but so far no construction has begun. Bridge closed signs and blockades sit across the roadway on either side.
Many of the bridges are decades old and made of wood. According to the report, 181 have timber substructures. Those bridges have weakened over time. In many cases, the parish has set up restrictions, limiting the amount of weight those bridges can carry.
"We should fix them, we shouldn't just keep reducing the tonnage," Welch said.
One potential solution being considered is hiring contractors to do the work immediately rather than waiting for the parish crew to get around to the bridge. Another potential solution is relocating current parish workers to help with bridge maintenance.
Welch said he is confident money can be found to fix the bridges. Councilman John Delgado has another recommendation.
"That needs to be addressed right away and that's where you could put that BP money to great use," he said.