The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is using its recent weight-listing of a heavily used bridge at Port Allen to underscore the importance of infrastructure investment, maintenance and inspections, while businesses absorb lengthy detours in the area.
The DOTD said March 30 that after "a recent routine bridge inspection" found deficiencies in the structure, it was immediately lowering the load limit for vehicles traveling on the La. 1 Intracoastal Waterway Bridge, setting the new limit at 15-25 tons in both directions – which would prevent many fully loaded trucks from using the bridge – and estimated
repairs would take "a minimum of two months."
The department also warned that even though it was entering into an emergency contract under which crews would work seven days a week to complete the repairs, motorists that continue using the weight-restricted span "can expect intermittent one-lane closures during non-rush hour periods."
"This is unfortunate and inconvenient for the commercial trucks, and the industries they serve, that depend on this bridge and this route," said state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson.
The DOTD said that bridge was built in 1960 and has average daily traffic volume of about 48,000. It is not scheduled for replacement until 2020, the department said, "pending available funding at a cost of $120 million."
The event came the same week the research group TRIP issued a report
highlighting the state's need for greater investment in surface transportation infrastructure, and the costs that current conditions impose on Louisiana drivers.
Wilson said the new Rt. 1 bridge restrictions provide "another compelling example of why routine inspections, consistent maintenance and building infrastructure are vital to the state and the nation when it comes to commerce," Wilson added. "Our crews will work as quickly as possible to make the necessary repairs. I have often said an unsafe bridge is a closed bridge. It is my hope that this reinforces the importance of adhering to safety-driven decisions."
The Greater Baton Rouge Business Journal reported April 5 that the load limit was "causing massive headaches for businesses and industries" that normally use the bridge.
The news report said part of the problem was that businesses whose trucks use that bridge "had no time to plan for the significantly longer travel time bypassing the bridge is causing." It also said chemical shipper Dow now must keep 100 trucks a day on area roads for an extra hour a day to deliver cargoes from its Port Allen warehouse that normally use the bridge.