Louisiana suffered up to $20 million in road and bridge damage from recent flooding, state Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson said Tuesday.
Wilson made his comments during and after an appearance before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. The panel is reviewing DOTD’s proposed $583 million operating budget for the financial year that begins July 1.
Wilson told the subcommittee that 455 road and bridges were closed at one point. He said 60 or so roads and two bridges were off limits as of Monday.
“It is a combination, mostly roads, is what we are finding,” Wilson said after the meeting. “We are seeing a lot of erosion and shoulder issues, which will allow water to get under the road and be an unsafe condition.”
The storms struck statewide earlier this month.
At least 12,000 homes suffered water damage, another 1,200 second homes and businesses did so as well as 13 public facilities, including Southeastern Louisiana University.
North Louisiana experienced more bridge damage while south Louisiana saw mostly road problems, including St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Washington and Calcasieu parishes.
“Virtually all of the areas where we have declared a disaster, we are finding ourselves having to go in an do some erosion work and some other road repairs,” Wilson said.
Bridges known to be in a weakened condition before the storms got the first attention after weather conditions improved.
Some were damaged by barges and debris.
Wilson said interstates also got early post-storm checks because of the volume of traffic they handle.
The federal government is expected to pay most of the repair costs.
“I think the vast majority of what we are going to see will get reimbursed,” he said. “It will require some ‘state share’ in terms of making that up. And that is just the reality of emergency response.”
The estimated tab statewide is $15 million to $20 million.
Wilson said the state has the dollars for its share — generally 10 percent or 20 percent — and officials have 180 days to calculate repair costs.
Louisiana already had a $12.7 billion backlog of road and bridge needs aside from storm damage.
Of that amount, 48 percent is for new roads and bridges and 43 percent is for upkeep, including resurfacing, upgrades to structurally deficient bridges and bridge painting.
Wilson also said that, even before recent storms, more bridges have been closed or posted with weight limits than any time in the past 12 years.
“It is a real issue,” he said.
The state has more than 13,000 bridges, with about 8,000 owned by the state and 5,200 locally owned.
Wilson said most were erected at about the same time, and have similar problems with aging.
“They are all on Social Security,” he joked.
Wilson said bridges are typically closed or posted because of a single heavy load or an accumulation of heavy loads.
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