The Bogue Falaya River is not a big river. Running 29 miles, it cuts through Washington and St. Tammany parishes before emptying into the Tchefuncte River north of Lake Pontchartrain.
Crossing the Bogue Falaya, however, can be tough, especially if you are driving north on U.S. 190 toward the rapidly growing northern parts of Covington or Folsom. Just before you get to the river, the road contracts from three lanes to one lane before going over an aged overpass over the Bogue Falaya, leading to interminable late-afternoon backups.
According to statistics provided by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, about 27,000 cars cross the bridge daily.
DOTD is aware of the problem at the bridge and with the two-lane road north of it, and it wants to widen both. But the plan is expensive and will take a while, so DOTD is hosting an open house from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday in Covington at the City Council chamber to help residents understand what is planned.
At the meeting, DOTD representatives will answer questions and explain plans for improvement to the road, which is expected to happen in four phases.
The first phase, the only one for which funding has been obtained, will construct a new three-lane bridge over the river and connect it to Lee Road to the north and U.S. 190 south of the river. Construction on that phase is expected to start in fiscal year 2017-18 or 2018-19.
A second phase, which would include a roundabout at U.S. 190 and La. 25 north of the bridge, could start in the same years, DOTD spokeswoman Bambi Hall said.
The third and fourth phases would include widening the road north of the river all the way to La. 25 and further work south of the bridge, including building a replacement road that would tie into the new three-lane bridge, Hall said.
The total estimated cost of all the phases is between $70 million and $100 million, she said.
Covington Mayor Mike Cooper said the improvements are sorely needed.
“The chokehold we have experienced over a number of years has put us in a position where this is a dire need,” he said. “The northern part of Covington is experiencing growth despite the bridge restraints. With a new bridge, we can only imagine what that growth will be.”
Cooper said an upgrade also would make it easier for people to evacuate in case of a storm.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.