If you've lived in Shreveport/Bossier for any length of time at all, you know how badly we need to replace the Jimmie Davis Bridge over Red River connecting the two cities.

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You also possibly know of the complications we have seen in getting this project off the ground due to a number of issues including nesting swallows and re-appropriation of funds.

So, when we heard late yesterday that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, held the opening of the price proposals for the Jimmie Davis Bridge design-build project in Bossier and Caddo parishes, there was a collective sigh of relief that maybe this project would soon begin.

However, when reading that the DOTD estimated the cost of this project at approximately $223 million and the lowest bid came in over $138 million higher than that, some of us felt the wind was knocked out of our sail.

Of the two design-build teams who submitted proposals at the end of January 2023, James Construction Group is the apparent successful proposer for the project, with a bid of $361,743,367.

Of that staggering difference between estimate and reality, Secretary Wilson said, "During this time of unprecedented inflation and price volatility, we will carefully review the price proposal that is over 50 percent of the department’s estimate. Such a swing is not unexpected and will require us to work with the legislature to close the gap. Delaying the project is not likely to result in an extremely lower price."

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Google Earth

Dr. Wilson went on to say, “This new bridge will serve as a major crossing over the Red River, and it will allow Louisiana to have its first linear bridge park by repurposing the historic, original bridge, which will benefit the local residents by providing more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure while keeping a piece of the region’s history.”

The intent of the design-build project is to construct a new four-lane bridge parallel to the existing structure. Once complete, the current bridge will be rehabilitated into a linear park that will connect the existing bicycle and pedestrian trails across the Red River. At that point, it will be transferred to Louisiana State Parks. Additionally, LA 511 (Jimmie Davis Hwy.) will be reconstructed from the east end of the Jimmie Davis Bridge to U.S. 71 (Barksdale Blvd.) into a four-lane, median-divided highway, providing a full-access interchange between LA 511 and Arthur Ray Teague Pkwy.

This leaves many of us with more questions than answers. Will this cause another delay to the project? Could this possibly end the project? Does this give more credence to the possibility of a privately built toll bridge? How much longer will the bridge be safe to cross?

Hopefully those answers will come soon.

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