Work on the Red Chute Bridge on Sligo Road is currently at a standstill, according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development.
LADOTD said the project can not continue until the water level in the Red Chute Bayou drops eight to nine feet. Because of the high water, the contractor, James Construction Group, has not been able to inspect the work that was done prior to the flood.
The Red Chute Bridge closed in March 2015 after an initial inspection revealed it was unsafe due to high water and drift coming down Red Chute, which was banging against the timber pilings.
“We recognized then that it wasn’t safe and that it was going to fall in. And it did,” Cindy Dorfner, Public Information Officer for LADOTD, said.
The contract group has done all the work they can up to this point, Dorfner said, but they need the water to recede before they can begin building the banks back up.
“It has eroded terribly, which is why the road ended up falling in after the high water event last year,” she said.
Even more bad news — there’s more rain in the forecast this week.
“Every time they think they can get back out there, it starts raining again,” Dorfner said. “Because the Red River is so high, there’s no where for the water to go. What people don’t take into consideration is if the water’s high, it doesn’t matter how many beautiful days there are in a row. If the water is high, they can’t continue the work.”
Dorfner said she spends a majority of her time answering questions about the Red Chute Bridge.
“I kind of joke — if you have a [phone] number for Mother Nature….” she said. “But really, what are we going to do? It’s out of our control. There’s no person in this entire organization who doesn’t want to get this project done. But when you’re at a standstill, you’re at a standstill.”
The contract states the contractor will replace the Red Chute Bayou bridge, begin work on a detour bridge, replace the bridge before Red Chute, and tear down the detour bridge in that 250 day period. That plan, however, has been slightly tweaked.
“What the contract said was they could not start working on the temporary bridge or the other bridge until they got the Red Chute Bridge reopened. Now because of the standstill, if we didn’t let them start working on the other one, it would be ridiculous,” Dorfner said, adding that dirt will be brought in to start working on the temporary bridge next.
Dorfner clarified that the 250 work days may not include weekends, weather days and holidays, depending on the contractor’s specifications. There are a total of three bridges to be worked on during this period.
“It’s a 250 working day project. They have used 58 days, meaning 23-percent of the contract time has gone by,” Dorfner explained. “They have only worked 12 and a half percent of that.”
She also addressed some misinformation regarding the project’s completion date. Dorfner said the project has always been scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2017.
Following the most recent flood, Dorfner met with the project manager and was told there was “about two and a half months of solid work” left to do on the bridge.
“If they can get out there and work for two and half months straight, they could open it,” she said. “There’s not a years worth of work to be done. It’s two and a half months. The question now is when can they get out there and do that work.”
It’s not just rain in the immediate area either. Any rain north of Bossier will flow through the area and prevent the water level from dropping, adding more time to the project.
“We want this project done,” Dorfner said. “I keep asking for patience, but I just don’t know what else we can say. If the water is high, they can’t continue the work.”