HARVEY, La. — A new study ranks Louisiana 14th in the country when it comes to bridges in poor condition, and now some local officials are putting pressure on the state to fix the problem.
If you take a drive over the Harvey Canal, you have likely been caught in the construction or the bridge closures, but Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts said while some improvements are being made in areas like the Harvey Tunnel, the state is not addressing the real problem.
“The Harvey Tunnel and the Fourth Street Bridge have both been concerns that we’ve had,” Roberts said. “They have been not maintained like they should. They are antiquated, they need to be replaced. We have been saying that for years now.”
In a recent report released by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, Louisiana ranked 14th among states with the most bridges in poor condition.
The report found that of the nearly 13,000 bridges in the state, 14 percent were structurally deficient and roughly 15 percent of all state-owned bridges do not meet today’s design standards.
But that did not come as a surprise to drivers like Eddie Fisher.
“Where do you get the money?” Fisher said. “Budgeting is tight wherever you go, and it’s just, how do you come up with the money?”
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) has stepped up its efforts to fix the problem, but now the concern is whether the job will be done right.
“We have been pressing them to do improvements to the Fourth Street Bridge and the tunnel,” Roberts said. “We want to make sure, though, that the improvements they do aren’t just a temporary fix to try and satisfy us.”
Roberts said not only could these roadways potentially become dangerous, but in the case of the Fourth Street Bridge, it has other far-reaching consequences.
“There are businesses that rely upon their customers that take those routes,” Roberts said. “When that bridge goes out and it’s out for a period of time, it interrupts commerce for them. It’s not fair to the business owner.”
With the state of the budget, residents and local officials agree money is definitely part of the problem.
“There needs to be a long-term plan and the state needs to quit kicking the can down the road,” Roberts said.
In a statement, the DOTD said that since 2008 it has spent over $1.3 billion on state bridges and said just because a bridge is deemed “structurally deficient” does not mean it is unsafe.
The state agency also said it regularly inspects bridges to ensure all bridges are safe to drive and said it has several multi-million dollar projects in the works to repair and preserve state bridges.