BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development announced Wednesday that it would cancel plans to rehabilitate the La. 511 Jimmie Davis Bridge and build a new one instead.
This decision comes after a $23.4 million contract to rehabilitate the bridge was terminated over the bird plan. Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development terminated the contract because both sides could not agree on how to get rid of the cliff swallows, a protected breed of bird, living under the bridge.
The funds that would have been used on the rehabilitation project will be diverted towards the design and ultimate construction of the new bridge.
"I want to invest in real, long-term, common-sense transportation solutions that make the best use of our financial resources," said Gov. John Bel Edwards. "By working with our state and lo-cal partners, we have developed a new strategy that will better serve Northwest Louisiana. The rehabilitation project would have spent more than $20 million and would not address the over-all problem. I'm confident that this is the wisest investment for Louisiana and the best approach to address the transportation challenges in the Shreveport-Bossier region."
While a final estimate for the new bridge isn't available, funding will need to come from a combination of state and federal resources, according to a statement released Wednesday morning.
A timeline for the project is not yet available, but according to Dr. Shawn Wilson, DOTD Secretary, the most important step is to get the design process started.
According to the statement, the bridge sees nearly 19,000 travelers a day. And Cindy Dorfner, DOTD's Spokeswoman told us, "It's very clear what people wanted. They wanted a new bridge."
Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker said a DOTD administrator in Baton Rouge urged he and other local leaders to write Governor John Bel Edwards by Tuesday afternoon, with their wishes on what to do about the Jimmie Davis Bridge.
In the letter, Mayor Walker explained they asked for it to be replaced by a 4-lane bridge, with several conditions. One of them: "The existing bridge would be maintained and be safe for travel for whatever period of time it would take."
Mayor Walker said that's critical considering a new bridge could take up to a decade to complete.
Bridge rehabilitation would have closed it for a year, affecting businesses like Fine Wood Furniture, west of the bridge in Shreveport.
Chandra Greco, the store manager said, "We were very worried about how slow it would make our foot traffic here at the store. And so, finding out that they're not going to close it is very exciting."
Mayor Walker estimates a new bridge could cost $60 - $80 million.
"The bottom line is always money," added Walker.
Walker added that the city bought the land for a new bridge several years ago. And Republican State Senator Barrow Peacock of Shreveport also told us a new bridge was always the ultimate goal. He added that an environmental assessment for a new bridge was completed in the past year.
Dorfner insisted the bridge is 100 percent safe. She said the last inspection was in August of 2015. The next one takes place July 13.