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Politicians question possible I-12 design flaws that contribute to flooding

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TANGIPAHOA PARISH, LA (WVUE) -

Tangipahoa Parish President Robby Miller believes a design flaw most likely caused homes north of I-12 to flood during last year's major storms. 

"I would presume if in 1983 it had an effect that there is a strong probability that it had some issues this time," Miller said. "It depends on where the rain was falling because we had major flooding on the south side of the interstate, too. So it probably was going to flood anyway."

In 1983, more than 1,000 residents in Tangipahoa Parish sued the Department of Transportation over the design of I-12 and won, saying the interstate prevented water from draining south. 

Despite the successful lawsuit, Miller said little has been done in more than three decades to remedy the problem. 

"When work is done on the interstate, we need to take into account that more water needs to move underneath it," Miller said. "DOTD does maintain and keep the openings that are there clear and let the water move through, but it's just not enough of them."

Miller wants DOTD to install more culverts underneath the interstate allowing water to flow out of the area. 

"Whenever you do that, you have deal with what do you do with the south side of the interstate," Miller said. "The south side has changed dramatically, and if you move water over there faster, you have to figure out how to move it on the south side too." 

The push for improved drainage comes as Congressman Garret Graves asked the federal government to reduce flood risk for homes north of I-12. 

Tuesday, Graves showed the Federal Highway Administration pictures of how a wall along I-12 trapped water north of the interstate during the August flood. The pictures were of a crossover-prevention wall in Livingston Parish, which acted as a levee. 

Graves questioned the wall's design and why no drainage feature was included. The congressman also asked the panel to address the problem of how dozens of motorists were stranded on a section of I-12 for hours when floodwater surrounded them. 

"If you could advise us on how long it's going to take to get new standards in place to where we don't have situations like this again," Graves said. "Here we are a year after the flood and no one's touched the wall, still there are no drainage outlets, no nothing. God forbid we have another big flood."

Miller wants DOTD to install culverts underneath I-12 during a widening project.

According to DOTD, there is no scheduled I-12 widening projects in Tangipahoa Parish at this time. However, DOTD engineers do believe that would be the most appropriate opportunity to add any cross drains if the existing culverts are inadequate for the flood events.

A majority of residents who sued DOTD in 1983 have yet to receive payment.  

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