Delays for key bridge replacement in St. James, Lafourche after contractor defaults

Delays for key bridge replacement in St. James, Lafourche after contractor defaults
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State highway officials have suspended construction on an $11.7 million bridge replacement along the vital La. 20 corridor linking western St. James Parish and the Mississippi River with communities along Bayou Lafourche.

The contractor on the job, TL Hawk, has defaulted and the state Department of Transportation and Development is in negotiations with a bond company to find a new builder to finish the work on the Bayou Chevreuil bridge south of Vacherie, agency officials said Wednesday.

The bridge project, which began in early 2021, had originally been targeted for completion in he spring of 2022, but DOTD officials said in January that equipment and material delays pushed the completion time back to the summer of 2024. 

In March 2020, well before sharp post-pandemic inflation, TL Hawk had under-bid three other competitors for the bridge job by $2.25 million to $4.59 million, a DOTD bid tabulation says.  

Even before the contractor’s recent default, DOTD officials had raised the prospect in January of employing liquidated damages against the company if delays continued.

On Wednesday, DOTD officials said they could not give a timeline for the work until they negotiate the hiring of a new contractor. 

The prior contractor had already built a temporary bayou crossing while work on the new bridge was expected to continue, including the driving piles for the new bridge’s piers.

The bridge replacement is the first part of a plan to widen not only the bridge over Bayou Chevreuil but also the narrow two-lane highway that cuts through the isolated swamps between southern Vacherie and La. 307 in Lafourche Parish, state highway plans show.

DOTD officials said both the bridge and highway widening projects will now likely be underway at the same time. The project to widen three miles of La. 20 is expected to go out for construction bids this summer, DOTD officials said.

“Both contractors will coordinate their construction efforts around both projects,” DOTD officials said in a statement. “Once the widening project begins, it is estimated to be completed in three years, weather permitting.”

Passing through Chackbay, La. 20 links western St. James with the Thibodaux and Houma areas, serving as a link for bayou residents to reach plants along the Mississippi River and Interstate 10 northwest of I-310. The Bayou Chevreuil Bridge is on the parish line between St. James and Lafourche.

The bridge and state highway work came after a St. James Parish task force and local officials had advocated for the improvements. They collected parish and state data showing the bridge and highway were well above the state averages for crashes and fatalities.

A September 2015 head-on crash on the old bridge that killed both drivers helped galvanize public sentiment, backers have said. Parish governments in St. James and Lafourche kicked in dollars for the bridge work.

This project will replace the current bridge over Bayou Chevreuil with a new wider and longer structure along the same horizontal alignment as the current one.

Once completed, the bridge will be 40 feet wide and 835 feet long, as well as approximately three and a half feet higher from the midpoint and six and a half feet higher at both ends than the existing bridge.

The new two-lane concrete bridge and the wider highway will have 12-foot-wide lanes with 8-foot-wide shoulders. The new bridge will also be longer and have a lower crest, offering drivers a better view of oncoming traffic.

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About Mary Weyand 11096 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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