Covering Louisiana

Jul 19, 2014 6:07 PM by AP

Jindal orders state help to fix road through SU

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. Bobby Jindal has ordered the state transportation department to help fix a main road through the Southern University campus in Baton Rouge.

The road has been unusable for nearly a month.

The New Orleans Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1n1zqTn ) E.C. Harrison Road gave way when an aging culvert crumbled. University officials sought state aid to get it reopened because the financially-strapped school doesn't have money to fix it.

Campus leaders believe a culvert under the road deteriorated because of age and water streaming through campus from the Mississippi River and the Scotlandville area. When it gave way, the road on top crumbled and collapsed, leaving a giant sinkhole where that segment of the road once was.

The road's closure has left an unpaved route as the only way to reach residence halls on north side of the campus. Officials say the road break is considered a safety issue and it's an inconvenience.

"Safe, efficient transportation of people and commerce is a vital interest of the state of Louisiana," Jindal wrote in his letter ordering the repair work.

The Department of Transportation and Development can't work on properties outside the state highway system, unless there's a gubernatorial declaration to do so. Jindal's letter says the road's closure could impact an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 students, employees and visitors if it's not fixed before the fall semester starts.

During a recent meeting, the Louisiana Board of Regents, which oversees the higher education boards, discussed Southern's struggle to find money to cover the road's repairs and granted the school authority to seek aid from the Interim Emergency Board, a state fund dedicated to emergency repairs on state properties. The fund currently has about $1.7 million, according to the Division of Administration.

Acting Chancellor Flandus McClinton Jr. said he was glad to see Jindal and other leaders step in to ensure the road is repaired before students head back to campus.

"It really has caused a tremendous problem for us," McClinton said.

Jindal's letter says Southern will reimburse DOTD with funding it receives from the Interim Emergency Board for labor, equipment and materials.

DOTD spokesman Rodney Mallett said the job is expected to cost about $300,000. Earlier estimates had put the costs at $2 million or more.

"The bridge maintenance supervisor said he hopes to get started, at the latest, Monday. They have to make sure there are no utilities in the area. The goal is to finish before Southern starts its next session," Mallett said.

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