By T. Scott Boatright
Both lanes of the U.S. Highway167 southbound overpass over Interstate 20 has reopened Sunday afternoon after a large chunk of concrete fell from the structure on Saturday.
No injuries were reported in that incident that caused the left southbound lane of the overpass to be temporarily closed.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) oversees maintenance of those overpasses crossing over I-20.
DOTD Public Information Officer Erin Buchanan said Monday that the agency completed a full-depth patch on Sunday.
“That was done using a method that involves repairing all sections of roadway (from the base to the driving surface), and reopened all previously closed lanes,” Buchanan said. “Bridge decks do wear out over time, as this bridge was built in 1960.
“Most importantly, the bridge is safe for travel – it would be immediately closed if our bridge engineer and inspectors deemed the condition of the bridge to be unsafe. This particular bridge is not currently on the schedule for replacement, but that does not mean a project can’t or won’t be developed for it.”
Buchanan said that no plans for further repair/replacement of that overpass is on the DOTD’s current schedule but added that could change in the future should it be deemed necessary.
The DOTD does have replacement of the LA 544 (Cooktown Rd) overpass tentatively scheduled to go to bid for replacement in March 2024.
“It’s important to note that letting dates can and do often fluctuate based on a variety of factors,” Buchanan said. “Roundabouts are included in that project to replace the signalized intersections at the interstate ramps.
“Additionally, DOTD inspects all public bridges (meaning both state and locally-owned structures) on a regular cycle. No bridge goes longer than two years without being inspected, the most frequent inspection cycle is six months. We monitor the conditions of all of our bridges, but still welcome anyone to reach out and report any concerns they may have so our staff can investigate.”
In March, Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker told the LPJ that he still has a chunk of concrete that fell off the Cooktown Road overpass shortly after he took office eight years ago and was told by DOTD officials at that time that planning to replace that overpass would take eight years.
City of Ruston Public Works Manager Andrew Halbrook told the LPJ in March that if the DOTD sends out the project for Cooktown Road overpass work bidding in November, then construction on a new overpass could potentially begin by the summer of 2024.
“I think plans for the project are set for around 1,200 calendar days from start to finish,” Halbrook said. “But that’s a ballpark figure.
“There’s a lot of staging elements that have to be in place before anything substantial can be started and would become visible to nearby drivers. So we just have to be patient while remaining hopeful it will be started and completed as fast as possible.”