The city-parish is getting ready to begin construction on a new bridge on Bob Pettit Boulevard, which crosses Bayou Fountain between Nicholson Drive and Tigerland.
Though it’s a small bridge, it’s going to be a big deal.
The roadwork will shut down the intersection for months, beginning as soon as December, completely blocking access to Tigerland at the busy intersection until sometime in mid 2022.
That means anyone wanting to get to the neighborhood and the popular LSU watering holes for which it is best known—Fred’s Bar and Grill and Reggie’s—will have to come from Brightside Drive and cut through one of the neighborhood cross streets.
While that will be an inconvenience for motorists, it’s going to be particularly problematic for pedestrians—primarily students—as there won’t be any temporary pedestrian access across the railroad tracks and bayou.
Fred’s longtime owner, Mark Fraioli, for one, is concerned about what the construction will do to his business, and has offered to pay for a temporary footbridge.
But Director of Transportation and Drainage Fred Raiford says while there were some preliminary conversations, the idea didn’t come to fruition in time and now, with football season nearing its end, the city-parish has to get to work on the new bridge so it will be completed before the start of the 2022 football season.
“I don’t want to delay the project, and building a temporary pedestrian bridge is not as simple as it sounds,” Raiford says. “It has to be ADA compliant. You have to work out certain arrangements with the railroad, which doesn’t like anything crossing their tracks and we couldn’t work all that out in time. This project has to start immediately after football season so we can get it done.”
Raiford acknowledges the construction project will be inconvenient and says “that is unfortunate.” But the bridge is outdated and needs to be replaced for safety reasons.
“I don’t like to inconvenience people,” he says. “But I also don’t want a bus crossing the bridge to end up in the canal and then everyone would say, ‘why didn’t we take care of this sooner?’”
Fraioli says he is still hoping to change the city’s mind. In the meantime, he is planning his own construction project—a 30,000-square-foot beer garden—around the bridge project.
The work is expected to cost a little more than $1 million and construction crews should begin work in early December, with a late July or early August completion.