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Crumbling bridges could leave hundreds of residents on an island in West Feliciana

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WEST FELICIANA PARISH - Frustration is boiling over for residents in West Feliciana Parish and Parish President Kenny Havard, who has been trying to get two new bridges built to help residents that could be left on an island.

Already, one bridge was closed by the state over Bayou Sara in 2020 due to the poor conditions. The only other bridge for residents to access is buckling under the strain of normal body weight. Boards that were supposed to hold the bridge together have now come apart and are scattered next to it.

"Government can do anything they want to do," Havard said. "They can hire anyone they want to. They can build what they want to build and do it as fast as they want it. It's just the will to get outside the handbook to do it."

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Havard said the parish recently acquired land from landowners where the equipment will need to be placed to construct the new bridge.

"Sometimes it's cheaper for us to just do it because of the red tape...," Havard said. "Because there's so much waste in what we do, to meet the requirements for the handbook."

The problem is so concerning with one bridge closed and  another about to fall in, a contingency plan was put into place.

"We have a back-up plan," Havard said. "We have a culvert we can drop in the hole and be in and out of there within a day. We also have a temporary bridge we can build up the head walls, it's sitting and waiting just in case that happens."

According to a national organization, more than 1,600 bridges in Louisiana are classified as structurally deficient. That means one or more components of the bridge are in poor or worse condition. Among the bridges that are structurally deficient are two in West Feliciana that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is aware of.

"The bureaucracy of the processes in place, I spend 80 percent of my time trying to get around government. That is put in place to get something done. If they get out of the way we can build a bridge."

The Department of Transportation and Development said one of the bridges used to be a one-lane bridge. Utilities will be moved to make it a two-lane bridge.

The cost and timeline to fix both bridges have not been finalized.

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