No end in sight for construction on Twin Oaks Bridge
ZACHARY - The Twin Oaks Bridge off Hwy 19 in Zachary has been closed since 2015 when it failed a routine inspection by the state.
The city has to foot the bill to fix it, and locals say it feels like they just forgot about it.
It's part of a bigger problem in East Baton Rouge Parish, with nearly two dozen bridges around town that need work done.
Payton Richardson drives from Zachary to Baton Rouge daily and says he's seen no work done in two years.
“They've done absolutely nothing to make progress on it, they've done absolutely nothing to make it passable, it's just sat, just like you see it,” he said.
With the bridge out, it adds time to his commute. Richardson says he says it's not just an inconvenience, but the alternate route is dangerous.
“Actually last week I had a car pull right out in front of me because it’s a blind curve...I was coming down Old Baker Road and she just pulled right out in front of me and we barely missed,” he said.
Fred Raiford, director of Drainage and Transportation for East Baton Rouge Parish, says at this point the bridge is beyond repair, and they need to build a whole new one.
“It’s structurally unsound. It’s a wood timber bridge, it’s met its life expectancy, it’s probably over 60 years old right now,” he said.
This bridge isn't the only one in the parish with this problem. There are 22 bridges in different phases of engineering, and this bridge alone could cost the entire budget for the year.
“It could cost as much as $500,000 to $1.4 million dollars. And when you have a budget of 1.4 million total, per year, it makes it very difficult to try to get these bridges back under construction and open,” Raiford said.
The Twin Oaks bridge is not high on the priority list because of the location and volume of traffic that would use it.
“This particular location, while it is important to people who live here, the volume of traffic certainly wouldn't warrant to move it up over a bridge that carries 8,000 cars a day,” Raiford added.
For now, the city is working on a design plan so they can be ready when the funds become available.
“People hate when you go ask for money and you don’t have a project ready,” Raiford said.
There is no set timeline for building the new bridge on Twin Oaks Drive.
“It's underway it's just not where people want it, they want to see construction out here, and I understand that, and were gonna do everything humanly possible to try and get it done as quickly as possible,” he said.
With the budget so tight, the city says federal dollars are the ‘saving grace’ to getting these bridges fixed.
At the top of the list of bridges set to re-open is the Claycut Bridge. It’s close to a school, so they hope to have it open before school starts.
There are nine other bridges under construction, with the Silver Leaf Bridge set to be approved by the council Wednesday.