Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff got caught Thursday afternoon by the security bollards at the State Capitol.
Melissa Mann was driving into the parking lot behind the State Capitol when the steel poles that restrict entrance came up and wrecked the front of her Dodge Durango SUV. Mann left the police at the scene to handle the incident and returned to work.
“It was our 14th crash,” State Police Lt. J.B. Slaton said.
Slaton said from what he’s been told the bollards were operating properly. “It was vehicle driver error,” Slaton said.
Mann declined comment. Governor’s Office spokesman Doug Cain said Mann was “shaken up” but OK.
Capitol Police said they were still investigating the incident.
The vehicle incidents started in April when the bollards became operational, first catching a state legislator.
Since then, there have been 13 incidents involving Capitol staff with access and the public trying to get into the card-access only parking areas.
Slaton said no tickets have been issued. He did not know how many of the cases involved tailgating and how many are attributable to malfunctioning bollards. There have been incidents of hydraulic fluid leaks and sensors going awry.
The bollards are retractable cylinders that rise and lower to restrict access to the closest parking in front of and behind the State Capitol. The bollards retract after a motorist scans an access card and is given a green light. They come back up after the vehicle passes and red light comes on to signify “stop.”
No information was available Thursday on whether the state has had to pay damage claims on any of the vehicles.
The installation of the bollards is part of a State Capitol security upgrade project designed to keep vehicular traffic further away from the historic building that houses the Governor’s Office and is where the Legislature meets. Bollards were also installed around the perimeter of the building closest to where motorists travel to stop vehicles from getting onto the Capitol grounds.
The $4.37 million Capitol security project is now costing $4.76 million, with another $1.7 million more to go.
The $1.7 million project will convert the winding roads on either side of Arsenal Park from one-way to two-way streets and build roundabouts at either end of the park. That project started this week. It is supposed to be completed by Jan. 5 — butting up against inauguration of a new governor the next week and a promised special session.
Four security posts were installed on the northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest corners to police parking restrictions as part of the initial project. In addition, the project blocked traffic from traveling around Arsenal Park, putting up barriers on a stretch of roadway closest to the Capitol.
Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter, @MarshaShulerCNB.