Road reopening eases holiday gridlock

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 22, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — A two-month project to repair and resurface a portion of a major LaPlace thoroughfare came to a close Wednesday afternoon with the simple snip of a red ribbon.

Parish officials and St. John Council members were on hand to officially reopen a stretch of Carrollwood Drive, between Airline Highway and Madewood Drive, which has been shut down for repairs since early October. The opening ceremony was originally scheduled for Thursday morning, but Parish President Bill Hubbard said it couldn’t wait any longer.

“People want it open, so we figured we would get traffic back on it as soon as possible,” Hubbard said. “This road is an important route for residents and business owners. Call it an early Christmas present.”

In addition to a much needed resurfacing, St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said the Carrollwood Drive makeover also included a few tweaks that will make traffic flow safer and more efficiently.

Boe explained that Carrollwood’s right lane has been made into a right turn only lane, while the left lane will be able to turn left or go straight across Airline Highway.

“It’s how every other intersection in the parish works, so we decided it should also be implemented here,” Boe said. “It will eliminate the backup that the right lane had always produced in the past.”

Wednesday’s opening brings an end to a yearlong struggle between the parish and officials from Wal-Mart regarding responsibility for repairs of the street. In a report submitted to the St. John Council last December, Parish engineers concluded that damage to the street was caused by Wal-Mart delivery trucks that travel along Carrollwood Drive daily. The retail giant would eventually contribute $150,000 to the $567,000 project.

“Talks with Wal-Mart were rocky at first, but it finally came through,” said Hubbard. “I am very happy they were willing to work with us and get this project going.”

Hubbard said the project had a 120-day work schedule, but contractors from Thigpen Construction of St. Rose were able to complete the job in just under seven weeks because of a change order that allowed the use of quick drying concrete.

“Our goal was to open before Christmas and we beat it by about a week,” said Hubbard. “I am very satisfied and pleased with the work.”

Once the ribbon was cut and the barricades were removed, it did not take very long for traffic to begin to roll along the busy street. The first handful of motorists to travel the road showed their excitement and appreciation with waves and honks.

Boe said the improvements, which included repairs to a few hundred feet of sewer lines below the street, will make for a stronger street that will last much longer. The project called for 12 inches of rock under an 8-inch thick layer of concrete, which will hold up better to the heavy truck traffic that frequents that part of the street.

“To show comparison, the last time Carrollwood was resurfaced, only two inches of concrete were put down,” said Boe. “This will be a much more sturdy road that can handle the immense traffic levels.”