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Woodland Drive Bridge repair marks completion of St. John bridge projects

LAPLACE — The Woodland Drive Bridge connecting parish employees to the LaPlace sewer treatment plant is no longer a safety hazard with deteriorating timber pilings and sinking infrastructure.

Funded by a 2014 bond issue, Woodland Drive marks the fourth and final local bridge to receive repairs, effectively removing St. John the Baptist Parish from Louisiana’s list of structurally deficient bridges.

Prior repair work at Country Club Drive, Greenwood Drive and Fairway Drive bridges represent more than $2 million invested in public safety, according to Parish President Natalie Robottom.

Capital projects administrator Derron Cooper described the necessity of the Woodland Bridge repairs at a ribbon cutting held last week at the site.

“After a period of time, the elevation drops, and what we were having was the approach slabs on the East and West sides of the bridge beginning to sink,” Cooper said, noting the bridge is used mainly for employee access and commercial deliveries to the sewer treatment plant.

The bridge received a new guardrail, retaining wall and approach slab paving.

Rotting timber pilings were removed and replaced under the bridge, which also features a repaired fence and swing gate.

While the Woodland Drive Bridge is not a high traffic area, Robottom said the safety of the employees who travel back and forth over the canal is paramount.

Furthermore, disrupted access to the sewage plant could have environmental and public health implications if wastewater is not properly treated.

Before the 120-day construction period began, utilities workers and local property owners coordinated an alternate employee route to keep the sewage plant operational. Robottom said the preparation took longer than the actual construction, which progressed smoothly without issue.

She commended Principal Engineering for working quickly and keeping the total project cost at $240,905, coming in under the $300,000 budget.

“We had assessments from project administrators, DOTD, external consultants and everybody made assessments that the (four) bridges were in need of repair,” Robottom said. “Over time, these bridge repairs were funded through bond issues, and the money went exactly where the voters intended for it to go.”

When the Fairway Drive Bridge was found to have more extensive damage, there was some concern the money wouldn’t stretch to fund the Woodland repair, according to Robottom. Fortunately, those fears did not become a reality.

“You can’t put a price on safety, so it was important that we identified the funds to fix these bridges,” Robottom said. “It is out of sight, but it’s important.”

Principal engineering president Henry DiFranco said it was a pleasure to oversee the bridge repairs.

“St. John is near and dear to my heart because I have history here,” DiFranco said. “It feels good to be the former public works utilities director and still do infrastructure here.”