Mandeville police enlisted to restore 4 traffic lanes on 190

There is more frustration for Mandeville business owners, who long ago lost patience with a construction project. They mobilized to have the police remove the traffic cones that restricted travel on Highway 190 to two lanes the week after the long-delayed job was supposed to be finished.

Four lanes of traffic rolled through Mandeville on Tuesday for one of the first times in 19 months, and it wasn't easy.

"Today we got a call and assisted DOTD in reopening the roadway," said Lt. Gerald Sticker with the Mandeville Police Department.

The state transportation department got Mandeville police to help remove the barricades that contractor Command Construction had erected. Business leaders say they called state lawmakers to take action.

"I'm not sure what the beef is between DOTD  and Command, but as a police department we're not going to get in the middle of that," Sticker said.

The work was supposed to be finished just in time for Black Friday and the busy holiday shopping season, and Mandeville business owners were pleased to see the state step in.

"We've been suffering for 19 months and it couldn't have happened at a better time for us for holiday season. Hopefully we can make up for some of the problems we had over the year," said Mark Benfatti with N'tini's restaurant.

The barricades were taken down briefly last week, but were put back in place by Command Construction which is being charged thousands of dollars for being five months late on the 190 project.

"Last week when they went to a full four lanes for five days, we noticed an uptick in business," said Benfatti.

But Command said work on minor items isn't finished, and the DOTD's actions Tuesday will further delay the project and increase their late fees.

The contractors were supposed to finish this project earlier in the year, but kept encountering delay after delay, forcing a number of businesses to fall by the wayside.

"We just worked for free this year, you do what you have to do to survive," said Benfatti.

The project has also impeded police officers responding to calls for service.

"I think everybody's ready for this to be over with," said Sticker.

For now, all four lanes remain open, and state officials say if Command wants to put up barricades, it must do so between the nighttime hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Business leaders say that members of the parish's legislative delegation, were key to getting the barricades removed. State officials say late fees against the Highway 190 contractor are still being negotiated.

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