BUTTE LA ROSE, La. (KLFY) — Construction is happening now on both ways in and out of Butte La Rose, but state and local government is being careful not to cut off the community completely.
If you drive over the bayou basin bridge, you’ve passed exit 121. It leads to Butte La Rose, and since June the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) has been overlaying the 121 exit ramps on I-10.
That project was initially estimated to be complete by August, but the Eastbound exit ramp has just reopened. Westbound is still underway. That leaves St. Martin Parish Government and this pontoon bridge to adjust.
“The bridge is very old and not in real good shape,” described St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars.
He went as far as stating the old pontoon bridge is what St. Martin Parish engineers are calling beyond repair. Records state it was initially constructed in the 1930s then moved here in the ’50s.
Cedars signed contractors in September to remove the pontoon bridge and replace it with a $7.2M two-lane swing span bridge, but as desperately as it’s needed, he can’t isolate the town.
“If we were to undertake that endeavor, we would pretty much close that whole community,” Cedars explained. “The only way to get to Butte La Rose is either over the current pontoon bridge or by the interstate. The only other way you can access it is boat by the Atchafalaya or parachute in via an airplane.”
Instead of taking turns with DOTD, St. Martin Parish contractors have kept busy. While they wait to disassemble the pontoon bridge, they have begun work assembling the replacement offsite and are currently bringing pieces in and laying down what framework they can.
Residents hope the old bridge can be reassembled somewhere else for historical value. Though they have to wait to cross the one-lane bridge with a four-ton weight limit, several can’t help but admire its charm.
“I’ve actually got a picture of the bridge on the wall inside the camp,” admitted Marty Bryan who lives in Butte La Rose. “There’s not a whole lot of those types of bridges left in place I’m sure, and it’s definitely got character that doesn’t need to be lost.”
Parish President Cedars also hopes to salvage the bridge but stated neither he nor his contractors can guarantee it at this point. Cedar’s ultimate objectives are “public safety” and “ease of access”.
“I think that if we had not undertaken the removal of the old structure and the construction of a new structure, DOTD probably would have closed that bridge. That’s how bad of a shape it’s in,” Cedars admitted.
We reached out to DOTD about the delays. Communication Director Rodney Mallett said
“The project has been delayed for another 2 to 3 weeks to complete dirt and asphalt work. We are disappointed in the amount of time this project has taken. However, our contracts include liquidated damages (penalties) to ensure the contractor minimizes delays. Currently, the contractor is in “liquidated damages,” which means they have exceeded the contract time and will be subject to pay penalties when the contract is complete.”-Rodney Mallett, DOTD Communications Director
St. Martin Parish contractors say if they can begin dismantling the pontoon bridge by late January, they will be able to meet their deadline of installing the new bridge by December 2022.