Work underway to battle future flooding along evacuation route in St. John

Published: Jul. 30, 2014 at 2:39 AM CDT
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Near LaPlace, work is underway to battle future flooding on the I-10 exit ramps at Belle Terre Boulevard / Highway 3188. The roadway was one of several that were swamped by Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

"You were kind of isolated, you know. Everywhere you looked there was water on the street," said LaPlace resident Mike Sistrunk.

Shalita Jackson had the same experience.

"You couldn't even pass [the exit ramps]," she said. "It was just horrible -- water everywhere."

Isaac's flooding was among the worst folks across St. John Parish can remember. Many homes took on water and officials said they were alarmed by the submerging of numerous roadways – including multiple points along the evacuation route, Airline Highway, the I-10 exits and parts of the actual interstate.

"There was overtopping by two to four feet on the surface grade of the interstate. That was a problem for everyone," said St. John President Natalie Robottom. "That portion of the interstate was underwater for three days. That's unacceptable."

Over the next two weeks, crews will be tackling part of the problem at the Belle Terre exit, by overlaying the ramps. According to the Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development, the current work will elevate dips in the ramps. Officials said the I-10 Westbound on-ramp, which isn't included in the current project, would likely remain closed for some time during a high water event.

Robottom applauds the effort and DOTD's willingness to work with the parish, but she said it's only a quick fix.

"We know it's an interim measure. This is not the solution to everything. We're continuing to push for a levee project. It's my understanding that the requested information was submitted back to [Washington DC], with regard to the West Shore Levee Project, and that would not only protect the interstate system, it will protect our communities, and that's the ultimate goal," she said.

That, however, is likely far down the road.

In the meantime, state police officials say they're prepared to direct traffic to alternate routes, should the water rise again.

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