BATON ROUGE -- Teams from the Department of Transportation and Development and federal government are inspecting 90 movable bridges in the South Louisiana area affected by Hurricane Katrina to prioritize repair needs.
Inspections are continuing, but the most severely damaged movable bridges to date appear to be the East Pearl bridge on U.S. 90; the Bayou Liberty bridge on La. 433; and Rigolets bridge on U.S. 90, according to DOTD Secretary Johnny Bradberry.
Fortunately, the Leeville bridge on La. 1, the only landlink to oil-critical Port Fourchon, appears stable. Officials feared scour, or washing out of dirt around the pilings, might have been severe; however, a recently completed inspection showed that was not the case, Bradberry said.
The bridge on the roadway, which the state already planned to replace because of its propensity to flood, was found to be structurally and mechanically sound.
Teams that include engineers from both DOTD and the Federal Highway Administration have made preliminary inspections in Districts 61, 62, and 2 – the Baton Rouge, Hammond and New Orleans areas, respectively – and now have field inspections under way in eight parishes – Orleans, St. Tammany, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. Charles, Lafourche and Terrebonne. Ninety movable bridges – 30 of them owned by local governments – are located in the eight parishes.
So far, field inspections have been completed and the data are being analyzed for the Baton Rouge and Hammond areas. Inspectors will visit New Orleans area bridges in St. Charles and Jefferson parishes and where possible in Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes today, including the two tunnels at Belle Chasse and Harvey.
Reports are incomplete, but major damage found to date includes:
· East Pearl bridge, U.S. 90, on the Mississippi-Louisiana border. The bridge is not operable, but is open to emergency vehicular traffic.
· Bayou Liberty bridge, U.S. 433, in St. Tammany Parish, west of Slidell.
· Rigolets bridge, La. 90: The bridge has severe mechanical and electrical problems and is not operable to marine traffic. Repairs are being performed, but no estimate is available on completion.
“Louisiana has more movable bridges – 130 – than any other state in the union,” Bradberry said. “We’re focusing on these first because the mechanics of these bridges are more susceptible to damage. So far, the most critical ones are in St. Tammany and New Orleans.”
The department has had to forcibly raise some bridges for the transport of emergency material and personnel.
Meanwhile, work has begun on a non-movable bridge, with repairs expected to be completed in three weeks. The Caminada Bay bridge, on La. 1 between Grand Isle and Port Fourchon, is still passable for emergency personnel, but some of the deck spans have shifted, although none was lost.