More than half of St. Landry Parish bridges have restrictions

OPELOUSAS, La. (KLFY) – St. Landry Parish is responsible for 145 bridges.

Parish President Bill Fontenot said three bridges are currently closed for safety reasons: a bridge on Bellard Loop near Lawtell, the Billeaux Road Bridge near Cankton, and the Alex Richard Bridge near Arnaudville.

“We will not allow and the process will not allow for unsafe bridges to be on the public system,” Fontenot said. “You, by law, have to close them.”

Fontenot said another 80 bridges are posted — which means they have weight limits — and could also be closed at any time. He said replacing or doing major repair work to a bridge can cost about one million dollars.

“A lot of the bridges that we have today are 100 years old and they’re made out of wood, they’re falling apart. Even if they’re 70 years old, we have some that are pitiful,” Fontenot said.

The parish reopened the Bayou Portage Bridge near Arnaudville earlier this month. It had been closed off and on since the August 2016 flood.

The closure meant drivers had to go about 15 miles out of their way. Fontenot said the bridge will eventually need to be replaced. The parish spent $40,000 on repairs to get it reopened.

“We’ve identified the part of the structure that we could repair that would bring it up to a standard to at least have 15 tons, 20 tons cross it,” said Fontenot.

He said the federal government will pay for 80 percent of a project and the state has to pay 20 percent. He favored raising the state gas tax to bring in more transportation dollars.

“There’s a big disappointment in parish leaderships that our legislature did not fund the governor’s plan or proposal this past legislative session,” Fontenot said.

The Billeaux Road and Bellard Loop bridges received federal approval to be replaced, but it could take two years. The Alex Richard Bridge isn’t on the list, yet.

Fontenot said the parish is allowed to use “Smooth Ride Home” money for bridges. That’s the two cent sales tax voters passed for road improvements.

But he said they don’t want to use a lot of that money because they can pave five miles of road for what it would cost to replace one bridge.

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