Keeping 23 clearSep 18th, 2012 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: top story
There were two bits of good news for Plaquemines Parish residents on September 10: Hwy. 23 was cleared of water and marsh grass, allowing all cars to pass through from Belle Chasse to Venice, and an additional $2 million in state funds was secured to raise the crucial roadway.
The stretch from Lake Hermitage to Pointe Celeste was closed until early last week, as several feet of water remained from Hurricane Isaac’s August 29 landfall. Once the water finally receded, crews had to clear the thick marsh grass that covered 6 miles of road before traffic could safely pass through.
The scene is a familiar one for Plaquemines, as any storm events leave the only evacuation route out of Westbank Plaquemines a flooded mess. But that major inconvenience and safety concern may become a thing of the past.
During this past legislative session, $6 million was secured in state funds to move forward with the raising of sections of Hwy. 23 and the engineering phase is currently underway, but after seeing the immense need for an elevated roadway, DODT has offered to chip in an addition $2 million.
“We had a project to raise the lowest sections of La. 23 within the old Citrus levee system which was estimated to cost $7 – $8 million,” explained Melissa Mann, Legislative Liaison for DODT. “However, our district staff is currently reassessing the project related to flooding from Hurricane Isaac to ensure design specifications would allow La. 23 to be accessible more quickly following flood conditions.”
Mann says that although the new Post-Isaac design may increase the price tag for the project, the $6 million in capital outlay, paired with the $2 million from DODT and the $1 million from PPG should cover project costs.
State Representative Chris Leopold credits the increase in funding to local and state officials bringing the urgency of the situation to the forefront of the minds of influential decision-makers at the State capitol and in Washington.
“After the storm made landfall, we started to recognize the need to heighten awareness during the event,” said Leopold.
Additionally, Parish President Billy Nungesser, who has long advocated for more funding for the Hwy. 23 project, says he is working on asking the Corps to expedite all levee projects in light of the crisis.
“The frontal protection for Diamond is out to bid, levee lift in Diamond and Jesuit Bend projects are going to bid in October and December,” explained Nungesser. “We have asked that Colonel [Edward] Fleming expedite all levee projects, cause we know what the difference a year will make.”
Leopold says that construction will begin on the raising of Hwy. 23 during the spring of 2013 and the project will be completed before next hurricane season.