ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) Louisiana transportation officials have a message for drivers who use the O.K. Allen Bridge between Alexandria and Pineville: Starting July 26, take another route.
Construction on the bridge that will replace the Depression-era O.K. Allen and its approaches will reduce U.S. Highway 165 on the Alexandria side from four lanes to two in the area approaching the bridge for about one year.
“The major message we want to get out is the public is going to experience some inconvenience for this period of time,” said Nick Verret, engineer administrator of DOTD District 8. “They might want to consider some alternate routes, such as Jackson Street or the Purple Heart Bridge.”
The two-lane O.K. Allen, rated obsolete for years, is being replaced by a pair of two-lane crossings. The approaches on both the Alexandria and Pineville side also are being realigned and rebuilt.
The lane closures started July 26.
U.S. 165 is four lanes until the area just before the bridge, where it funnels to two. The two northbound lanes will be closed starting near the intersection with Interstate 49 up to the area where the road drops to two lanes.
In the area where the northbound lanes are closed, the two-lane southbound roadway will be opened to two-way traffic.
The closure is so workers can build the northbound approaches and the structure-supporting end of the northbound portion of the bridge.
The northbound approach often has delays at peak times, particularly late afternoon and early evening rush hour. With the lane closure, delays will increase if traffic volume does not decrease.
“This will exacerbate that a little bit,” Verret said. “We’re not closing it. This is open to traffic. But motorists may want to consider other routes.”
The lane closures also could cause some inconvenience for motorists turning onto Third Street in Alexandria from U.S. 165, Verret said. To help with the flow, the left-turn signal from U.S. 165 to Third Street will be changed from an arrow only turn to a permitted turn on a green light.
Once this phase of the project is complete, the two northbound lanes on the Alexandria side and the two-lane northbound portion of the bridge will be used for two-way traffic while the southbound lanes and southbound portion of the bridge are built.
The $83 million project is expected to be complete by February 2014.
“Sixteen percent of the project is complete and 16 percent of the time has elapsed,” said Jeff Connella, DOTD coordinator on the project. “We’re right on schedule.”
Said Verret: “Everything is going pretty good. I don’t think there have been any major issues.”