PRAIRIEVILLE — A worldwide pandemic and continued rain before and during hurricane season have forced another delay in the long-running widening project along La. 42 in Ascension Parish, state highway officials said. 

The $28.9 million construction project is now expected to be finished in March 2021, pushing back the previously announced end date by three months, officials with the state Department of Transportation and Development said.

Should it take that long to finish the job, the project — which will widen 3.7 miles of state highway in Prairieville — will have taken seven years to complete. It has taken so long that two different governor's offices have had ground breaking ceremonies for the job.

By comparison, a $72 million state project to widen 6.5 miles of I-10 between Highland Road and Prairieville is expected to take a little more than two and a half years to finish, if it hits an expected end date next month, highway officials said.

Ascension Parish Councilman Aaron Lawler, who represents part of the Prairieville area served by La. 42, announced the new delay on his Facebook page last week said he but didn't know the reason why.

He told his followers: "Hwy. 42 update. File under: Please don’t kill the messenger."

Rodney Mallett, spokesman for DOTD, later confirmed the delay and pointed to continued rain in recent months and delays due to the novel coronavirus.

Louisiana has had a particularly busy hurricane season — southeast Louisiana has been under a tropical storm or hurricane watch six times this year so far — and the virus has led to some complications for construction work. 

The lines were required so two-lane La. 42 could be widened to a four- and five-lane highway with enclosed drainage, removing the open ditches that once lined the highway. The sewer lines were required by state environmental laws 

The sewer line requirement highlighted how Ascension's lack of regional sewer service not only poses an environmental risk to area waterways but is also a hindrance to and local cost for the speedy widening of critical state thoroughfares. DOTD waited on parish contractors to finish that phase of the job. 

Once the parish finished its phase of the work and state highway and parish officials broke ground a second time in December 2017 on road construction, the highway was then anticipated to be finished in the spring of 2020. The latest estimated end date is about a year after that.

This month, DOTD officials said, about 95% of the underground drainage had been completed. The contractor was working on the subgrade layer, embankment and base course; combination curb-and-gutter and asphalt paving; sidewalk and shared use path construction and grading, DOTD officials said. 

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