Sign on Madisonville bridge creates buzz

Ashley Rodrigue talks about problems with the Tchefuncte River bridge.

MADISONVILLE, La. --  The Town of Madisonville is a buzz with some potential new changes coming to its well-known traffic troubles.

The bridge over the Tchefuncte River has, for many, been the main source of a frustrating rush hour experience.

This week, a sign was put up on the swing-bridge, suggesting a drastic change to the current bridge opening schedule. While officials say the sign was put up prematurely and is not in effect, many in the community are glad to hear something could be coming.

Many people who have driven toward the Madisonville swing bridge during peak hours on a work day have experienced the dreaded string of red lights, so much so, it has its own Facebook page.

While those behind the wheel feel the brunt of the frustration, businesses say gridlock hurts them too.

"Sometimes on Friday evenings, the traffic is backed up all the way past Beau Chene, people think, 'Oh well, don't really want to go toward Friends because of the traffic situation,'" said Friends Coastal Restaurant owner Ryan Richard.

"Our commuter traffic through Madisonville -- it's a problem," said Mayor Jean Pelloat.

It's something Pelloat has made a priority since taking the oath of office in July.

"We have a large number of cars and vehicles that travel (Highway) 22 getting to work, coming home from work, and with the bridge openings, it adds to the delay," he said.

One potential solution on the table is decreasing how frequently the bridge can open for boats, something the Coast Guard says will be testing along with a public comment period in the near future. Some boaters are wary of the potential wait times they could end up with.

"You kind of have to achieve a balance there, but if it's consistent, the boaters will probably adapt to it," said Claude Villar.

Also being discussed is another access point to the interstate and either replacing the town's four-way stop with a traffic light or a roundabout in another location.

Some say those plans should be fleshed out before bringing up the bridge.

"Everything ends at that one four-way stop right now, and that's the problem," Richard said.

The positive, for most, is that a long-time problem is finally getting fresh eyes on it, and maybe a fresh start, sooner rather than later.

There is no start date, or timeline, for that test period by the Coast Guard at this time. In the meantime, the sign that stirred up conversation is expected to come down by Friday, and the current schedule of half-hour openings, when needed, remains.

(© 2016 WWL)


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