Audit: La. bridges among nation's worst

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 9, 2014 at 10:22 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 9 at 10:41 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Louisiana needs to do better when it comes to inspecting and fixing structurally deficient bridges -- that's the word in a new report released by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's Office.

"Louisiana, we're the 13th highest in population of structurally deficient bridges, so that doesn't speak well for our state," said Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

From a half dozen trouble spots along the Westbank Expressway in Marrero near Barateria Boulevard to a small bridge next to Mosca's restaurant in Avondale to the Huey P Long Bridge that has undergone major upgrades, a new audit says bridges across the metro area and state are missing the mark.

The report says Louisiana needs to improve its bridge inspections, which are only 39 percent compliant with federal performance measures.

The audit also recommends the state increase the frequency and timeliness of inspections along with keeping better track of its records.

According to the state auditor's report, approximately 2,000 of the almost 13,000 bridges across the state are structurally deficient.

"It doesn't mean that you can't drive over them. It means they need repair work. We're about $2.7 billion in backlog on maintenance and construction, primarily because because of lack of funds," said Purpera.

"It's definitely not safe. The money needs to go where it needs to go," said driver Jahanzaib Alam.

Here is a look at the top five parishes in the metro area with the largest number of structurally deficient bridges.

Tangipahoa Parish - 54
Jefferson Parish - 46
Terrebonne Parish - 35
St Tammany Parish - 32
Orleans Parish - 29

The audit also says the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is responsible for inspecting all bridges and closing down bad ones.

The report confirms the state maintains 751 of the deficient bridges and local government is responsible for the rest.

This is what drivers had to say about the state auditor's findings.

"It makes me a little nervous. But hopefully the state of Louisiana will do their best to fix it," said one driver who wanted to be identified as Brian.

"If you don't keep or take good care of the bridges, they're not going to last forever and people need to commute," Lower Garden District resident Jose Tafur.

In response to the audit report, the DOTD says it already started working to improve its bridge inspection program to meet federal standards.

So far, DOTD says it's hired more crews and a dedicated engineer in each district.

The state also paid $1.5 million for two more specialized inspection machines.

To read the full audit report, click here.

 

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