St. Helena Parish officials and emergency responders celebrated April 29 the grand opening of David Allen Road bridge off La. 38 in Colemantown.
The project was the final bridge of five that have been contracted for repair under the $3.4 million Gustav/Ike Grant Program, officials said. The opening of the bridge marks an end to the grant program.
Bridges on Hornsby Road, Willie Redden Road, Carrier Road and Sibley Road were repaired earlier this year under the program.
Pontchartrain Engineers & Surveyors Inc., of Ponchatoula, working with Providence Engineering, of Baton Rouge, and the parish have been in charge of the projects. Guinn Construction LLC, of Jennings, was hired to repair and/or replace the structures.
Parish administrator Virginia Bell said rain and weather-related issues delayed completion of the bridge repairs.
“Once the conditions were satisfactory, the crew returned to the project and finished it up in time for an April opening,” Bell said.
Where the previous four structures were concrete bridges, the David Allen Road bridge was replaced with a box culvert, contractors said.
North Helena Volunteer Fire Department fire chief Rita Allen said the opening of the bridge is a big relief to emergency personnel and first responders.
The North Helena Volunteer Fire Department, which is on David Allen Road, services the north end of St. Helena parish and is the only station north of La. 38 on the northwest side of the parish.
The David Allen substation apparatus covers from the Mississippi state line to La. 10, and from the Amite River to the Tickfaw River.
Allen said once the David Allen Road bridge, which crosses Frazier Branch Creek just south of the station, was closed last summer, it created a challenge for the fire service and other emergency responders.
“Where it once took only five or six minutes to reach La. 38 to an incident that might be to the southwest, the route was extended to having to use La. 43 to reach La. 38, and this created an additional eight to 10 minutes to reach the end of David Allen Road,” Allen said.
During the time it has taken to replace the bridge, Allen said they did not have any major incidents that required the units from that station to respond in the area that was closest to the bridge site.
“With the new bridge we can now respond using a direct route if needed when time is of the most importance to the residents and the public,” Allen said.
The new bridge also closes the gap that prevented law enforcement, emergency vehicles, U.S. Postal Service and garbage pickup services from being accessible for residents.