Little River Bridge hits another snag

Avoyelles Police Jury's 2003 design deemed 'obsolete'

After 15 years, the long-awaited and oft-delayed replacement of the Little River Bridge has hit yet another snag.

Just when the Avoyelles Parish Police Jury was anticipating news that the state Bridge Replacement Program project would soon be underway, it received a letter stating the 2003 design “is obsolete,” Jury President Charles Jones told jurors April 5.

The Little River Bridge was rated in good condition in its last inspection in 2017, but jurors say there are at least 50 families on the other side of the bridge that would be stranded if the bridge collapses or is eventually closed by the state in the future. The state reports 550 cars cross the bridge every day.

The project also includes replacing a wooden bridge on M. Bryant and E. Bryant Road in Center Point.

The combined cost of both bridges is approximately $1 million.

Jones said redesign of the bridges’ plans will cost $44,100. The state requires the Police Jury to pay that cost out of local funds, and not with the federal highway funds administered by the state for the Bridge Replacement Program.

To add a pinch of salt to that wound, DOTD said the new plans must be submitted within 90 days.

Little River Road was finished last year with federal funds after being delayed due to problems obtaining all right-of-way.

After clearing that hurdle, the state found that the project’s environmental impact study had expired during the delay. The parish had to pay for an updated survey.

After that was done, the state noticed ancient Indian mounds near the site. Although the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe said the mounds have been fully excavated for any archaeologically significant artifacts and information, the state decided to conduct a “cultural resources survey” last April.

The “obsolete” plan is just another spoke in the wheel of moving the bridge replacement projects forward.

Jones said that even though the Bridge Replacement Program can be frustrating at times, “it is good for the parish. We have replaced a lot of timber bridges with concrete structures through that program, and that has saved us a lot of money in maintenance over the years.”

In its offer to develop and submit the new designs, Boyd Holmes Engineering said the DOTD standards have changed slightly.

The consulting engineer said it is assumed the 2003 plans “can be used with minor modifications to revise the designs to conform to the latest LADOTD Design and Construction Standards.”

Police Juror Mark Borrel, who represents the area around the bridge, said the failure of that bridge is one of the parish’s nightmare scenarios.

He said there is no other feasible route for residents to get out of that area in the event of a flood that knocks out the timber bridge.

“Right now, we might have to be out there carrying them out piggy-back,” Jones said. “There are other ways to get out, but not with normal vehicles.”

Jurors have discussed possible responses to a worst-case disaster, including asking the Army to set up a temporary combat bridge across Little River or to establish a ferry for residents on the other side of the river.

Parish Civil Works Director Kevin Bordelon said the parish will be doing maintenance work on Little River Bridge as soon as the water level drops.

“We will put in a detour road and a temporary bridge while those repairs are being made,” he noted.

After receiving the letter on the Little River/E. Bryant bridge project, the Police Jury checked on other pending bridge projects.

“We found two other pending projects that need to be redesigned because they do not comply with the 2016 standards,” Bordelon said.

If there is any good news to be found in the issue, Bordelon noted, “it’s that the parish is fortunate the Police Jury has been able to watch its spending and can pay the cost of these redesigns.
There are some parishes I know of that aren’t in that position and they are going to have to put their projects on hold until they can pay to have a new design submitted.”

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