Guardrail may be finished by month’s end

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 10, 2009



ST. ROSE – Although construction has been slowed by recent rains, a series of guardrails separating Airline Highway motorists from the Borrow Pit Canal in St. Charles Parish are finally taking shape.

Dustin Annison, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, said fluctuating water levels in the drainage canal, coupled with heavy rains over the past month, have hampered crews working on portions of the 5.5 mile long barrier system. He said workers have had a difficult time keeping the soil stable enough to lay asphalt and secure support posts.

“After laying the asphalt we have to drill holes to put the support beams in place,” said Annison. “It’s hard to secure the post when the holes we drill get filled with water upon excavation.”

Work on the barriers began in August when crews from RMD Holdings brought in heavy dirt to build up the canal bank and shore up the shoulder of the road between Almedia Road in St. Rose and Apple Street in Norco. Annison said LADOTD expected the work to be completed by the end of October but added the actual completion date on the contract is Dec. 6.

“The Borrow Pit is a major drainage canal for St. Charles Parish and the parish is not allowed to close their drainage structures unless water in the marsh becomes abnormally high,” Annison said. “We are expecting that by next week a cold front will help adjust the tides and make the water recede enough for us to work. We have crews out there daily trying to get it done.”

With almost two miles of barrier in place, the total project is about a third of the way completed. Annison said the barrier line now stretches from Almedia Road to just west of St. Rose Avenue.

The guardrail is designed to prevent motorists who travel Airline from swerving into the murky water of the canal, which is said to be 30 feet deep in some places. State legislators, DOTD officials and residents of the area have clamored for years about some form of protection along that stretch of the highway. Improvements to the stretch got started in 2004, when DOTD reduced the number of cuts in the neutral ground and lengthened turning lanes along Airline Highway.

The barrier plan got a huge boost in 2008 when Sen. Joel Chaisson II, D-Destrehan, and Rep. Gary Smith, D-Norco, secured a $1 million appropriation for further safety improvements on the highway.

The canal has claimed the lives of more than a dozen people with the most recent incident occurring on May 27, when 65-year-old Dorothy Richard crashed into the canal and drowned after being bumped by another car. That incident came just five days before the state opened bids on the barrier project.