Officials meet to discuss safety after bridge collapses, closures in south Bossier

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File Photo | The Red Chute Bridge collapsed on Sligo Road in south Bossier. Photo taken in April 2015.

Parish and state officials have met to address traffic and public safety issues after the collapse of a bridge on Sligo Road.

Officials from the Bossier Parish Police Jury, Bossier Sheriff’s Office, Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, South Bossier Fire District 2, Bossier Parish Emergency Medical Services and Bossier Parish Communications 911 District met in a standing-room only Police Jury conference room last week to develop a plan following the unexpected closure of the Red Chute Bayou bridge on Sligo Road more than a month ago..

“We understand there is growing concern by residents in south Bossier and with those who travel the roadways in that area,” said Butch Ford, Bossier Parish Engineer.  “We’ve heard their complaints and concerns, and we wanted to meet today and get key players together to come up with a viable solution to address those issues.”

Red Chute Bayou bridge on Sligo Road was closed March 14 due to high water, drift accumulation, damaged bents and indeterminate severe erosion at the abutments, which continue to worsen with the prolonged high water levels. The bridge will remain closed until such time as it can be repaired or, more likely, replaced, according to DOTD officials. Current water levels prohibit a full assessment on damage to the bridge, caused by the high water and debris slamming against the bridge foundation. Water levels are not expected to be back to normal until sometime in the summer. The bridge was already slated to be rebuilt next year, and DOTD officials are currently working to accelerate that process to replace the bridge. 

“As we address the Red Chute bridge closure, we are fully aware of the inconvenience this is causing motorists,” said Cindy Dorfner, DOTD Public Information Officer.  “We are moving as quickly as we can to expedite the project to alleviate travel interruptions, however, there are no quick fixes.”

The bridge is closed to all traffic, including pedestrian, and has been fenced off to prohibit the public from crossing the bridge in any manner. Pedestrian movement of any kind is not allowed because the hot-mix surfacing on the approach has been undermined by scour and portions of the pavement within the fencing have collapsed. The rest is supported only by air.

  “Pedestrians must not cross the bridge because it is not safe,” Dorfner said. “Portions of the pavement within the fencing have collapsed. The rest of the pavement in the area of concern is supported only by air, as scour continues to undermine portions of the approach slab.”

In an effort to jointly ensure safety at this location, the Sheriff’s Office continues to provide additional patrol to monitor the bridge site at the request of DOTD.

In the meantime, motorists have been detouring onto Caplis-Sligo Road, which now has a significant volume of 3,700 vehicles on average each day.  Bossier Sheriff’s Office deputies have been monitoring traffic with speed warning devices and signs to keep motorists safe, and DOTD officials have monitored the traffic flow and pattern in recent days. 

In the meeting, officials addressed the issue of traffic building up on Caplis-Sligo as motorists approach La. 71, as well as the traffic flow on La. 71 as motorists are turning onto Caplis-Sligo.  Ideas discussed include possible roadway improvements, such as a dedicated right turn lane onto La. 71 and a left turn lane onto Caplis-Sligo from La. 71.  Additionally, officials will look at possibly placing appropriate caution signs to slow traffic in that area, especially as they engage in any road improvements.  Ford said he will also be in contact with KCS Railroad officials to develop a plan to adequately address any safety issues with the railway.

Parish officials also discussed the issue of emergency medical and law enforcement response issues with the bridge closure in order to get those services to residents appropriately.

Bossier deputies, State Police troopers and officers with the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit (CVEU) will have an increased presence to provide traffic enforcement.  As well, motorists are encouraged to have a higher sense of awareness as they drive in the affected area.

“This meeting shows a commitment of our parish and state officials to address the public safety needs of our residents,” said Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington.  “We understand how road closures affect your driving routine and make travel times longer, but we ask folks to remain patient as we develop and implement a safe and effective plan to meet their needs.  Also, slow it down, since the last thing we want is a vehicle crash due to driver negligence or folks getting in too much of a hurry.”

Officials will now determine the best course of action and reconvene in the next couple of weeks to develop a plan to adequately and quickly address the public safety issues and get traffic flowing safely.  They also discussed the effects and timing of the Red Chute bridge closure and repairs and the planned closure of the Jimmie Davis Bridge this year, which is expected to be closed up to one year. 

“We will update residents on the plans and developments of road closure and repairs in south Bossier as soon as we can,” said Ford.

Just last week, the bridge on La. 157 over Fox Skin Bayou and Fox Skin Relief that was closed April 6 was re-opened, welcome news for motorists in that area.