Airline guardrail work complete

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 17, 2010



ST. ROSE – Officials with the state Department of Transportation and Development said Thursday work crews have “substantially completed” a 5.5-mile-long steel guardrail along Airline Drive designed to keep motorists from plunging into a deep canal along the highway.

Dustin Annison, a DOTD spokesman, said final inspection on the $1.56 million project has been completed and the project’s contractor, RMD Holdings, is now awaiting the final paperwork to put the project to bed.

St. Charles Parish fire officials have said the barrier, which runs from Almedia Road in St. Rose to Apple Street in Norco, has already kept one vehicle from falling into the 30-foot deep canal.

Larry Cochran, assistant fire chief for the St. Rose Volunteer Fire Department, said the vehicle hit the guardrail just east of Ormond Boulevard in Destrehan about two months ago. He said the car rode up on the side of the rail but did not go into the water.

In December a vehicle traveling near the Interstate 310 interchange hit a large puddle of water and crashed through the barrier and into the water. All three occupants were able to climb to safety with the help of a passerby.

Parish residents had called for some sort of barrier protection along the roadway for years, but state police and rescue officials argued such a barrier would hinder rescue efforts or cause vehicles to bounce back into oncoming traffic. A string of fatal accidents in 2003 prompted a further push for a solution.

Improvements to the stretch got started in 2004 when the 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.