NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The U.S. 11 bridge, which spans Lake Pontchartrain, has been closed for repairs since January 2019. Now, the state says the work, which was initially estimated to last just a few months, is expected to be complete this summer.
The projected completion date of the $28 million overhaul of the 92-year-old U.S. 11 bridge has been pushed back several times because the bridge's advanced age has made the project more frustrating than originally expected, an official with the state Department of Transportation and Development said.
The bridge project involves concrete and structural repairs, replacing the grid deck and bridge operator's house, and a complete replacement of the electrical and mechanical parts that open and close the bridge for boats, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported.
American Bridge Co. is the contractor.
Scott Boyle, assistant district administrator of operations for the New Orleans District of DOTD, said many of the items being used in the overhaul require specialized fabrication to mesh with the span's aged superstructure. Rehabilitating the bridge's movable parts that open to allow passage of marine traffic is very complicated and involves structural, mechanical and electrical work, he said.
"There's a lot of moving parts to this project," Boyle said. "Because it's an older bridge, you run across unanticipated problems and delays. But, we are very hopeful with this new timeline."
The bridge spans the lake between the north shore community south of Slidell and Irish Bayou in Orleans Parish. The 4.78-mile bridge opened in 1928 and was the first vehicle bridge to span the lake. Originally privately owned, it was sold to the state in 1938 for $940,000.
It has been closed to traffic since Jan. 3, 2019 to allow for repairs. The protracted closure, 12 months and counting, has drawn complaints from commuters and businesses in the area.
Neil Ponstein, who along with his brother Jeff owns Ponstein's of Slidell, a bait, tackle and convenience store near the bridge, estimates that business is off 30% to 40% since the project began.
"It's been a huge source of frustration for us," Ponstein said. "During the week, we get very little traffic because there are no commuters."
Ponstein said his bother Jeff, who lives in Eden Isles and commutes into New Orleans, also is dealing with a longer than usual commute because of the closure.
"It's a drag on him," Neil Ponstein said.