GONZALES — Ascension Parish authorities are bracing for a possible traffic headache when the state closes the Bluff Road overpass across Interstate 10 for more than two months this summer.
State highway officials plan to close the overpass between Tuesday, May 29, and Tuesday, Aug. 7, to raise it to meet new federal guidelines and to repair a damaged girder as part of a $72 million project to widen I-10 from four to six lanes begun earlier this year.
Bluff is actually a state highway, La. 928. State officials pushed back the start date of the closure on Friday by four days.
On Thursday night, Sheriff's Chief Deputy Bobby Webre told the Ascension Parish Council that the Sheriff's Office and parish officials have met with the state highway department at least three times about the closure.
He said warning signs about the closure have been installed on Perkins Road in northern Prairieville and near the overpass. Warning signs have also been installed in the Dutchtown area on Bluff Road near C. Braud Road and on C. Braud Road itself to warn of a planned stop sign on Bluff Road.
The three-way stop sign will be installed at C. Braud Road and Bluff Road early next week but won't be put in use until the closure, Webre said.
He added that in the first week or so of the Bluff overpass closure, deputies will be monitoring traffic backups to see if traffic lights need to be synchronized or any other changes are needed.
"I don't want to say were going to take a wait-and-see approach, but I think this traffic is going to have to level itself out. Within that first week, what we're going to do is monitor very, very closely all the intersections that we have leading to C. Braud, to Interstate 10, to Highway 74," Webre said.
A lot of traffic is expected to use La. 74 and C. Braud Road to access Bluff through the congested La. 73 corridor in Dutchtown south of the closed I-10 overpass in Prairieville.
Some councilmen aired concerns about heavy truck and commuter traffic to the plants on the Mississippi River. Bluff Road offers another route, via La. 74, La. 73 and then La. 30.
"I would say that the biggest advantage that we have, at this point, is that this work has been coordinated to take place after schools close and, hopefully, that we'll get (the Bluff overpass) back up and running before school opens. Let's keep our fingers crossed on that," Webre said.