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Motorists turn around on the south side of the Surrey Street bridge over the Vermilion River Thursday, October 26, 2017, in Lafayette, La. Lafayette Public Works closed the bridge on Wednesday after corrosion issues were discovered. According to a Public Works release, the bridge "will be closed indefinitely until further notice for emergency repairs."

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK

The Surrey Street bridge over the Vermilion River is expected to remain closed to traffic for more than half a year as Lafayette officials work on emergency repairs, local government officials say.

Lafayette Consolidated Government is poised to hire Huval & Associates, Inc. to design emergency repairs to the bridge, which the city-parish immediately closed last month after receiving a state inspection warning the bridge was near failing.

The design and construction work is expected to keep the bridge inoperable for as long as eight months, Public Works Director Mark Dubroc told the City-Parish Council Tuesday night.

The Public Services Review Committee recommended Huval to city-parish administration prior to the Council meeting. Design will take about a month, Dubroc said, and Huval, if selected, will receive 10 percent of the construction cost. Procurement of a construction contractor will follow completion of the design.

Huval was recommended because of the firm's expertise with bridges such as the one on Surrey Street, as well as its experience with that bridge in particular, Dubroc said in an email Thursday. He said a contract is being finalized and should be executed within a few days. 

Dubroc said construction will cost $500,000, an estimate he described in an interview as “very, very rough.”

Dubroc said he was shocked to learn that the bridge was on the verge of failure following a routine state inspection last month. The bridge receives yearly inspections, alternating between the state and city-parish.

The previous state inspection, in 2015, showed some ordinary, light rust, Dubroc told the council, and additional rust found in the city-parish inspection the following year did not affect structural integrity.

The 2017 inspection, however, showed one of eight bearings that help support the structure had completely failed and another one was in imminent danger of failure. Heavy truck traffic on the bridge could have caused the bridge to drop by a foot, which could easily fracture the deck and result in a collapse, Dubroc said.

“We were very taken aback by the sudden progression,” Dubroc said, referring to the unexpected severity of the 2017 findings. “We felt at that moment it was not a risk anybody would be willing to take, with anybody’s life, so we consequently immediately shut down the bridge.”

Dubroc said the only logical reason for the unexpected findings is the 2016 flood, which came after the city-parish inspection.

A completely new bridge would cost about $3 million and require two years of construction, Dubroc said, responding to questions posed by Councilman William Theriot.

Theriot asked whether building a new bridge is more prudent than emergency repairs on the existing structure, which was built in 1948. Dubroc said he expects the repairs to keep the bridge in sound operating condition for another three decades, and that two years is too long a waiting period with severe congestion plaguing nearby roads.

Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux asked Dubroc and Mayor-President Joel Robideaux to consider opening the bridge to passenger vehicles only while construction proceeds underneath. Dubroc said the administration had consider this option but deemed it too risky.

“I am not optimistic about opening the bridge,” Dubroc said.

Follow Ben Myers on Twitter, @blevimyers.