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Metairie leader responds to complaints of missing pedestrian bridge

METAIRIE -- A Jefferson Parish council member is responding to an Eyewitness News Action Report addressing concerned residents taking a dangerous detour on Labarre Road.

MORE: Metairie residents face dangerous detour after bridge collapse

Carol Staiano lives nearby and contacted WWL-TV. She said the parish removed the bridge last fall and nothing has been done to replace it.

"We really need a walkway right here," she said. "We had a walkway before, but it collapsed."

The small, wooden pedestrian bridge used to connect the sidewalk over a ditch and the railroad tracks on Labarre Rd. Staiano is confused why the parish hasn't replaced it, because it's in an area with a lot of foot traffic. Residents use the sidewalk to get to a nearby Rouse's grocery store, gym and other shopping.

"I think they could come and build a little walkway across here. I mean, don't you think?" she asked.

Right now, anyone walking along the stretch has to walk on the small, muddy, rocky shoulder, or walk in the street. That includes kids getting off the school bus.

Jennifer Van Vrancken represents this part of Metairie, which is in District Five, on the parish council. She says the good news is that there is a plan to repair the sidewalk. The bad news is, it won't be a quick fix.

"It is going to be a little bit longer than we expected because it's more complicated than we expected," Van Vrancken said.

When the parish took the bridge down, it discovered the drainage infrastructure underneath is very old and made of wood.

"Ultimately, they're going to extend the pipe out, we're going to repair and replace all of the wooden substructure that's underneath there," Van Vrancken explained.

Until then, Van Vrancken said it doesn't make financial sense for the parish to put up a temporary bridge.

"To deal with the drainage infrastructure, we were going to have to take even that temporary bridge away," she said. "So it didn't seem to make sense to spend the money on designing and building a temporary structure."

A contract has been approved for the project. The parish plans to start surveying the area soon and a design should be complete by the end of the year. Construction won't be finished until the summer of 2018.

"The real problem is, if we don't deal with what's underneath this roadway, we risk having to shut down Labarre completely," Van Vrancken said. 

In the meantime, though, pedestrians are left without a good place to walk.

Van Vrancken also said she would contact the school board to see about creating a bus stop on either side of the railroad tracks. That way, students won't have to walk in the street to get home.

Those who live nearby say until it's fixed, it will be a safety hazard.

"I wouldn't want to see anybody get hurt. It's sort of an accident waiting to happen," Staiano said.

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