DOTD: US 90 patchwork that doesn’t meet standards will be corrected

Rita LeBleu

Motorists traveling daily along a three-mile stretch of U.S. 90 between La. 14 and La. 397 expected the road would be smoother when the crew finished its work.

It wasn’t. The repaired surface caused additional jarring. Plus, some of the spacing, cracks and other uneven road surface areas were filled in with asphalt, while seemingly similar areas were left untouched.

“I don’t get it,” said Elliott Butler of Butler Furniture. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t make it smooth where it is patched. I understand they’ll mill and overlay later.”

One business along this stretch of highway said it wasn’t given a heads up that its entrance would be blocked. Two businesses commented that the sound of certain trucks hitting rough patches was louder than it’s ever been.

“There will be rough spots,” said Tammy York, Louisiana Department of Transportation public information officer for District 7. “A mill and overlay doesn’t happen overnight and it can be extremely costly, but the only other option would be to close the road until the project is finished.”

York answered questions about the work in a detailed email to the American Press, saying the patching is the first step in the three-step-project that includes cutting down to the required depth, excavating old materials and filling with new material.

“This method addresses base material failures and repairs concrete sub-base joint failures,” she said. “It is a cost effective way to improve pavement performance and minimize the need for future maintenance repairs. It is important the damaged areas of roadway be repaired prior to overlay to ensure the final surface will be a smoother drive.”

LaDOTD employees do not build or repair roads. It hires contractors to do the work. These contractors may choose to subcontract out a portion of the job. Prairie Contracting turned in the low bid for the job. The American Press contacted this company and left two messages on two consecutive days, but have not received a return phone call.

The initial patching that seemed to make the road bumpier was subcontracted.

DOTD is responsible for inspecting this project per DOTD standards, York said. These inspectors assist in identifying the locations for patching and verifying the materials meet specs. The length, width and depth of the work are measured.

“In addition, the inspectors help determine daily whether the work is acceptable or requires corrections,” York said.

On Tuesday, July 13, the American Press photographed six DOTD workers walking along the side of the road where some of the patchwork had been completed. No construction work was going on at the time. One man was carrying an instrument of some sort. He told the American Press that workers are not allowed to speak to the press, not even to tell job titles or type of work they are performing. Nor could he give the name of the instrument being used. York confirmed. One of the men suggested talking to the subcontractor who headed up the patching portion of the project and was about to join the group.

Jesse Raimirez gave his name and the name of the company, Williams Equipment. He gave a general statement about the work performed but he did not want to be quoted.

Some of the patching standards did not meet the DOTD’s standards and are being corrected before the overlay, York said in her email to the American Press.

The patching operation cost $142,000 originally. A change order was approved for an additional $527,000, according to York.””

Workers with Apeck Construction do road repair work on U.S. 90 East Tuesday between I-210 and La. 397. The crew is excavating bad, bumpy spots and filling them in to make the roadway smoother. Work should continue for about nine more days, said a spokesman. Parts of the roadway are down to one lane as the work progresses.

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