La. 73 project, snarling Ascension traffic, delayed another four months

An already delayed state highway project to widen La. 73 in Ascension Parish has hit another snag, setting the completion date back another four months.

Lauren Lee, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said the La. 73 project is not expected to be finished until October, instead of the earlier projected end date of June.

The project, which has snarled traffic on the highway linking the Dutchtown and Prairieville areas for more than two years, is now about a year behind its originally announced end point of fall 2013.

DOTD and its contractor, Barber Brothers Contracting Co. LLC, are trying to widen a 2.3-mile stretch of La. 73 between Airline Highway and Interstate 10 from two to three lanes. The work also involves the installation of new parish sewer lines, being funded by parish government.

The project was originally bid at $15.5 million, but DOTD’s website now lists the cost at $17 million.

Lee blamed recent wet weather and the ongoing relocation of a gas line for the newest delay.

She said the line has been in the process of being moved since it was found in conflict with a sewer line in February. Lee said the relocation work is expected to be finished by the end of the month.

Working within a limited right of way, contractors have had to operate within tight spaces to install new parish sewer lines and do other utility relocations, slowing the job. Weather has also hampered work.

The La. 73 job began in October 2011, though actual road construction did not start until January 2012. Early on, the end date was pegged in the fall of 2013, though that was soon moved back to January 2014. In August, DOTD officials announced the project would be delayed again to June.

Jason Taylor, Ascension Parish government’s chief engineer, brought the most recent delay to light during a Parish Council Transportation Committee meeting earlier this month. Taylor said sewer lines are set to be finished on June 14 while the entire project is scheduled to be finished Oct. 31.

Councilwoman Teri Casso asked if the parish was leaning on Barber Brothers to speed things along.

“Yes, ma’am, we have parish representatives on them every single day, in one way or another, plus the state is on them every single day,” Taylor said.

The inspectors are also looking for problems and have found some, causing delays, Taylor said.

“But that’s a good thing for us. It’s a bad thing for the traveling public,” he said.