Birds to blame for latest Jimmie Davis Bridge closure delay

Birds to blame for latest Jimmie Davis Bridge closure delay
Nests can be seen on the underside of the bridge.
Nests can be seen on the underside of the bridge.

SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - The closure time frame for the Jimmie Davis Bridge is being pushed back once again. The latest delay is being attributed to federally protected birds nesting under the bridge.

The latest "loose time frame" for the bridge closure is now Spring of 2016.

Contractors picked to renovate and paint the Jimmie Davis Bridge purple are asking the Department of Transportation and Development for more time to prepare for the project during their "assembly period." That means a summer shut down of the bridge for repairs won't be happening anymore, which buys more time for drivers like Josh Lemke who drive across it everyday.

"I don't want to go all the way around to the Shreveport-Barksdale bridge, so it is relieving to know that it won't close tomorrow or this summer," said Lemke.

The contractors are asking for 5 to 6 weeks of additional preparation time because the bridge is home to Barn Swallow birds. Several nests can be seen all over the underside of the bridge.

The birds are federally protected, as a result, removing the nests won't be easy, especially if there are eggs or baby birds in them.

"They will not be legally allowed to remove those nests until the baby birds can fly," said nuisance wildlife control operator Rob McKay who owns Wildlife Abatement LLC.

McKay has dealt with these birds before. He said they are very territorial and will likely rebuild their nests under the bridge quickly even after being removed.

"A bird net would have to be installed under that entire structure to eliminate the possibility that birds could actually get under there," said McKay.

DOTD spokesman Cindy Dorfner said the department will likely grant the contractors the extension they are requesting because the bird problem is outside of the contractor's control.

In the meantime, Lemke welcomes the delays because he dreads the day it will close.

"It will add a lot of time to travel," he said.

DOTD will likely allow the extension before their time is up at the end of August for their  "assembly period" which is basically their time to prepare for the project.

The contractors are expected to do several months worth of work before closing the bridge. Dorfner emphasized the spring of 2016 is a "loose time frame" for when drivers can expect to see the bridge close.

If the contractors are granted the extension, their preparation period will be up on October 2. From that point on, the contractors will be required to get the whole project done in 550 days.

However, they are only allowed to close the bridge for a max of one year. The company will be fined for each day beyond the 365 day deadline.

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