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DOTD answers questions about the Jimmie Davis Bridge Rehab

A couple of weeks ago, I played audience to a series of e-mails between south Bossier City residents Alvin Scott and Donna Grimaldi and state Department of Transportation and Development Public Information Officer Susan Stafford concerning the Jimmie Davis Bridge’s $15-20 million, year-long rehabilitation.

Given the e-mail string’s content, Stafford is surely one of the most thoroughly responsive PIOs in state government.

Questions to Stafford ranged from the current state of the bridge safety-wise, to the length of time the bridge will be closed for rehabilitation, to future prospects of a new bridge. As many users of the bridge may have similar concerns, the information provided by Stafford is worth sharing.

On the issue of the safety of the current bridge, Stafford responded:

“DOTD’s bridge inspectors receive federal training and go through a certification program. Inspectors examine various elements of a bridge such as the bridge’s substructure (piers and columns), superstructure (girders and trusses) and decking (roadway surface and bridge rails). The data from the inspections is calculated and then used to post a safe load for the bridge.”

“Thorough engineering guidelines are followed for these inspections, and if a bridge is ever deemed to be remotely unsafe it is closed immediately and repaired or replaced. The Jimmie Davis Bridge was inspected in July 2013 and is inspected on an annual basis. While the bridge is not broken, the rehabilitation is intended to extend the life of the bridge. That being said, the bridge remains safe for the traveling public.”

As it concerns the anticipated year-long closing of the bridge for rehab, Stafford explained why it would be impossible to keep a lane open to traffic during the rehab:

“DOTD’s number one priority is the safety of the traveling public as well as our construction crews. An essential part of the rehabilitation project includes replacing the deck of the bridge. Furthermore, the travel lanes on the bridge have 12-foot lanes and 2-foot shoulders. For these reasons, it would be unsafe to allow traffic to cross the bridge with half the deck removed from the bridge.”

“Reducing the bridge to one lane would not safely allow motorists a recovery zone if an incident occurred and would also be very dangerous to crews performing construction work. Also, this scenario would not allow for emergency vehicles to reach and assist motorists.”

Stafford referred to a March 19, 2014 DOTD press release that explained that bids for the rehab project would be taken in October 2014, and that the work on the bridge would take approximately one year. Importantly, the press release also noted that DOTD would make every attempt to “accelerate the letting date and construction activities were feasible.”

Finally, Stafford addressed steps being taken to address the possibility of a new span across the river. “… there is an ongoing Environmental Assessment that is being performed. In August 2013, a public meeting was held to discuss proposed upgrades to increase vehicle capacity of the bridge by providing 4 traffic lanes and a bicycle/pedestrian trail connection across the Red River. The options presented to the public included either replacing or adding another bridge structure. Results of the Environmental Assessment are expected to be available to the public in summer 2014, at which time another public meeting will be scheduled to present the findings.”

Stafford’s time to provide all this information was appreciated – and perhaps helpful to the approximately 29,000 daily bridge-crossing motorists that the bridge rehab won’t take an entire year, and that a new span is somewhere in the future.

 

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the Bossier Press-Tribune. She may be reached via email at m_carlso@bellsouth.net