- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) - State officials say the Fort Buhlow Bridge connecting Alexandria and Pineville won’t be finished this year as had been planned. And it likely won’t be next year either.

Steve Buskie, project coordinator for the state Department of Transportation and Development, tells The Town Talk (https://townta.lk/SmKizF ) the opening of the bridge, which will replace the O.K. Allen Bridge, now is projected for January or February 2016.

Construction on the new bridge began in January 2011 and originally was scheduled to take about three years. The projected completion date later was changed to the summer of 2014, which is still listed on DOTD’s website, but the geography of the land under the Red River had other ideas.

“We ran into some very hard clays there on the Pineville side, which affected construction of the pier for that side of the bridge,” Buskie said.

“The challenge was at first we were going to drive piles through that hard clay material. . It turned out to be impossible to do it that way so we had to redesign the foundation, go with drilled shafts,” he said. “It took quite a bit of time.”

The redesign and new work needed to establish the pier foundation not only led to the delay, Buskie said, it added “an extra couple of million” dollars to the cost of the bridge project, originally budgeted at $82.9 million.

Pineville Mayor Clarence Fields is taking the delay in stride, saying unforeseen problems can delay construction projects.

“They ran into obviously some things different than what they thought would be there, particularly at the bottom of the river. I actually have a piece of that material that they ran into on my desk. It kind of changed things. It pushed them back a bit,” Fields said.

While the entire project won’t be finished for more than a year and a half, one span of the new bridge should be open by the end of this year or in early 2015. That span, which will be for northbound traffic when the entire bridge is opened, will be used for two-way traffic while the O.K. Allen Bridge is demolished and the span for southbound traffic is built in its place.

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Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, https://www.thetowntalk.com


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