Claycut Bridge to open in coming weeks

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The heavily traveled Claycut Bridge was closed by the City of Baton Rouge in July of 2016 for construction. Fast forward a year and a few months, and it's still closed.

"Some of that is due to weather delays that we've had because of storm and rain events. You can't put bridges in too well when it's raining or when the canals are flooding at that point," explained Transportation and Drainage director, Fred Raiford.

Last summer, Diamond B Construction was awarded contracts from the city to fix Claycut and two other bridges as part of an effort to improve public safety.  Raiford says those repairs included replacing wood with concrete piles and concrete decking. "It lasts a lot longer, certainly as much up to 70 to 80 years longer, that's for sure," said Raiford.

Raiford also says the city is responsible for over 300 bridges and they're "mindful of the type of traffic," that drives on the bridges. He says his department is trying to rebuild and/or replace bridges as quickly as possible, especially those with structural deficiencies.

"Not just volume, but type. You get large trucks that carry heavy loads. They do have an impact on your life expectancies of these bridges. In particular, a woodpile or a wood beam type bridge," said Raiford.

Terry Singer lives up the street from the decades old overpass. He says it might be a little inconvenient, but he prefers taking a detour over driving over an old wooden span. "The thought of our children and grandchildren being in a school bus and crossing that bridge became unbearable. Fortunately, the system picked that bridge to be fixed and replaced," said Singer.

Despite the unprecedented rainfall, Raiford says construction issues with utilities and planning have pushed the first completion date back. Originally, the project should've been done three months ago. Raiford says at this point, the contract will be reviewed.

"Whatever time he's entitled to past a year because of weather or other issues outside his control, those are called liquidated damages. Those will be the cost that he will be responsible to reimburse the city or we will not pay those costs to him. It's about $1,000 a day," said Raiford.

Although some neighbors might be unsettled by the fact the bridge still isn't open, Singer says he's looking on the bright side. "What we gained with that closed is we have fewer traffic situations. We have a lot less traffic."

City officials say the bridge should be open by the end of October.

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