City Engineer answers council’s questions about project

“Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong,” Bossier City Engineer Mark Hudson said in regard to the ongoing widening of Shed Road.

The project to change the portion between Benton Road and Airline Drive from two lanes to four has been a thorn in the sides’ of residents and businesses since it work began in late 2016. It was only exacerbated after it was delayed at the start of this year.

However, Hudson pledged to the Bossier City Council at its July 17 meeting that the project contractor said it would be complete the first week of October.

“I hope he’s right,” Hudson said wryly.

A lane of Airline Drive will be closed this weekend so the intersection with Shed Road can be completed.

“That’s a milestone,” Hudson said. “That means we can open four lanes of traffic in front of Cascio’s (Market Bistro restaurant).”

However, Councilman Jeff Darby, whose district contains the project, told Hudson and the council about hardships suffered by residents throughout the project.

“There were some hiccups and I got a petition,” Darby said. “Going forward, is there a way for residents to not have to suffer?”

Darby noted that a resident’s water was cut off for a “long, long time” and said there were “a lot of elderly people who had to purchase water and suffer.”

Hudson knew about the incident in question and explained, “The Shed Road project included relocating a water main and the contractor who installed it then hit the water main he installed. It happened half a dozen times and I believe you’re just referring to the last two times.”

Darby asked for punitive measures when it comes to mistakes impacting residents. Hudson replied, “I’m not making excuses for him. I sympathize with residents. They have been inconvenienced way longer than they should have been.”

Several business owners along the road have been vocal about how the construction has harmed foot traffic since it all began.

Cascio’s Market Bistro Owner TJ Forrest told the Press-Tribune in July 2017 that construction had been a disaster, saying, “I sunk everything I had into this place to get it and it’s killing me. It’s taking forever,” he said. “We’re normally packed in here for lunch five days a week. Right now, we might get packed one day during the week. People don’t want to drive their cars down this road.”

The project contract is set to expire in September and Hudson previously told council members the contractor is penalized $975 per day for every day past the expiration of the contract.

“You have a contractor at $975 per day having to build something, tear it up, and build it again,” Hudson said.

“It hasn’t been pleasant for anybody,” said an apologetic Hudson.

City Attorney Jimmy Hall chimed in that a punitive stipulation can be put into the project bid, but the problem is that it will be reflected in the price of the bid.

“You’re going to pay more for every project,” Hall said. “Unfortunately that’s something people will have to endure when the unexpected happens. There’s no project that doesn’t have problems.”

The $9.5 million construction project is a federal and city endeavor, with 80 percent federally funded and 20 percent city funded. It was due to be originally completed in January 2018.

The Shed Road widening project was initiated more than a decade ago, but construction didn’t begin until recently, which was due to the federal funding.