More than 1,600 bridges in “poor” condition in Louisiana, DOTD Secretary says more funding needed to keep up with repairs
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The cracks in the Mississippi River Bridge in Memphis have caused headaches galore. These are headaches DOTD says it is working to prevent despite an aging infrastructure.
According to USDOT, 1,634 bridges and 3,411 miles of roads across Louisiana are in “poor” condition. It is a statistic that has largely led to the state receiving a D+ on the White House’s infrastructure report card.
135 bridges are currently closed due to unsafe conditions according to DOTD. Secretary Shawn Wilson said the department has fallen behind on maintenance due to a lack of funding.
“When you get a state like Louisiana that has nearly 13,000 bridges and you haven’t adjusted you’re revenue stream you’re going to have unmet needs and delays,” Wilson said. “Since I’ve been secretary we’ve spent over a billion dollars on bridges and we’re still not able to get all of the work that needs to be done.”
Despite the department falling behind Wilson said the bridges that are open are safe to travel across, adding that any bridge that is deemed to be unsafe is immediately closed.
“Every bridge is inspected at least once every two years,” he said. “Pending on the condition of that bridge, pending the previous report that we did, it might get inspected more frequently.”
Wilson said inspectors routinely look for deterioration to the infrastructures of every bridge in the state.
“If we see drastic deterioration that bridge might be closed,” Wilson said. “If it’s not deterioration that bridge might be load posted.”
Being load posted means certain vehicles that are over a posted weight are restricted from traveling over the bridge.
Wilson said bridges that are rated “poor” are not unsafe, rather he said they may just be old, as is the case with the Old Mississippi River Bridge.
“It’s functionally obsolete in that it has narrower lanes with no shoulders,” he said. “It may be steeper than what we would want. Those are things we cannot change because it’s being measured against today’s standards even though it was differently done.”
Within the last 10 years, the old Mississippi River bridge received $70 million in repairs.
Wilson said if the state is to turn around its poor track record on infrastructure, lawmakers will have to step up to improve funding to create a sustainable investment to bridges overtime to keep up with repairs and maintenance.
“It’s directly related to our inability or failure to make the proper investments to maintain our bridges,” Wilson said.
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