Jan 23, 2014 7:30 PM by Alex Labat
Drivers in Abbeville are currently having to take the long way around as the state works to upgrade the bridge downtown. Workers are repairing the cabling system on the bridge, which has been closed since Monday, and projections are the bridge should reopen the first week of February. It's a bridge that thousands cross every day, and as our investigative team uncovered, it's not just the cables that could use replacing.
Abbeville is a city that in 1940 had a population of a little under 7,000 people. The downtown bridge was built in 1938, so traffic on the bridge posed no problem at the time. But as the city has grown, so has the amount of traffic. "I was surprised when I saw the traffic count. but that's a good thing for Abbeville. You know, we're a large city and the traffic reflects that", says mayor Mark Piazza. An average of 10,600 people cross the bridge every day. That's close to the population of the entire city of Abbeville, which as of the 2010 census was 12,257 people. But according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation, it's the marine traffic that matters most. Piazza says, "It's surprising. As I stated there's just a couple of businesses that I believe utilize the river for commercial traffic so that it surprising."
Work is being done to replace the cables on the drawbridge so that marine traffic can keep flowing. But a KATC investigation has also uncovered the entire bridge has been marked for replacement by the Federal Highway Administration. The width is too small for the amount of traffic the bridge sees, but DOTD says the bridge is safe and it's replacement is not a high priority. "The backlog of DOTD projects is $12 billion on their latest report. They have larger concerns than the bridge here in Abbeville I can assure you", says Piazza. Because of the bridge's age, it is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, something that Piazza says he'll be considering.