Problems continue to plague the multimillion-dollar State Capitol security upgrades, and more work is expected to add to the headaches soon.
The parking lot security system, which has challenged motorists since opening in April, has been involved in at least 11 wrecks, the last of which was Tuesday.
Ten of the crashes, according to police reports, happened when the vehicles of tailgating drivers were impaled by metal bollards automatically rising after letting the first car out. The 11th incident was attributed to a system failure, according to the Louisiana House Sergeant-at-Arms’ Office.
The Bollards are retractable cylinders that rise and lower to restrict access to the closest parking in front of and behind the State Capitol. They’ve been malfunctioning — fluids have leaked and sensors have gone awry. Orange cones and saw horses block entrances and exits here and there as the out-of-order sections of the security system await repair.
House Sergeant-at-Arms Clarence Russ said issues are still being worked out. “We’ve had a bunch of hurdles to cross,” Russ said.
A promised pedestrian plaza from the Capitol steps, where states names are chiseled, to the sunken gardens, where Huey Long is buried, has been complete for months. Billed as a people-friendly gathering spot in front of a Capitol that is the site of many rallies and protests, the plaza has decorative bricks and is walled in by stylish masonry. But people on foot still have to weave between the parked cars of State Capitol workers. When parking will be blocked off and the plaza will become truly pedestrian-only still isn’t clear.
Visitors aren’t allowed to park near the State Capitol, and finding parking nearby is about to become harder because of roadwork beginning this fall on a key artery.
Senate spokeswoman Brenda Hodge said the parking lot security system problems are holding up the pedestrian plaza opening as well as the launch of the traffic realignment phase of the project.
“There is a general concern about the safety of the public and those working in the Capitol,” Hodge said.
The state Division of Administration accepted the project as complete, but after that, there were instances where the bollard system malfunctioned, she said.
“We have not yet received written verification that the bollard system is working properly. Until we receive that notification, the pedestrian plaza cannot be established,” Hodge said.
“Additionally, there will be substantial construction around the Capitol in the coming months that will significantly limit traffic movement around the Capitol complex and will limit access to the front lot over the course of the project,” she said.
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. It’s another part of the security improvements. Bids are due Aug. 13 for the work. Completion is expected to take 120 days — butting up against the January inauguration of a new governor and a promised special session.
Division of Administration Office of Facility Planning Director Mark Moses said the bollard project has been “officially accepted” by the state and turned over to the Legislature — the user agency.
“We have a one-year warranty. Anytime there’s a glitch or malfunction in operational function, they are required to come back and service the system,” Moses said. “They came out last month and reworked some of the hydraulic lines and sensors in the parking lots.”
On the roadwork, Moses said the project is scheduled to begin in September and take 120 days to complete. Moses said his office will try to “squeeze another week or two” out of the timeline because of the potential of a January special legislative session.
Plans also call for the striping of Fifth Street from Spanish Town Road toward the Arsenal to be one-way with additional parking lining the roadway. The road through what is now called the Capitol “Garden” parking lot would be one way from the arsenal toward Spanish Town with parking on either side.
Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter, @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the State Capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.