By KEVIN CHIRI
Tammany West news
COVINGTON – There is always a lot for Covington Mayor Mike Cooper to talk about when he holds his quarterly “Coffee with Cooper” public meetings at the Covington Trailhead.
But one thing will always remain the same—the public is intently interested in road and traffic issues.
Cooper usually begins his public meetings with an update on road projects in the area, and at the most recent coffee gathering he did not shy away from informing the public that a steady problem in the city is not going to suddenly disappear.
Many of the bridges throughout Covington streets were constructed nearly 40 years ago with timber pilings, and one after another the city seems to be dealing with bridge closings as inspections are finding dangerous situations.
The latest is the 11th Avenue bridge at Mile Branch where Department of Transportation inspections recently discovered a key load bearing timber piling had deteriorated to the point that a warning to close was issued.
“The main piling they found the problem with actually holds two beams,” Cooper explained. “We got out there to do an emergency repair to shore it up, but we will eventually have to permanently close the bridge for a major repair.
The city recently opened the new concrete bridge at the 15th Avenue location, but Cooper said there are many similar bridges in the city with timber pilings and the city is clearly having to deal with major replacement jobs, one after another.
“The timbers on these bridges are good for 35 to 40 years and we are getting to that point on many of them,” he said. “On the 11th Avenue bridge we repaired six of the pilings two years ago, but now we can see there is another problem and we are going to have to eventually do as we did at 15th Avenue and construct a new, concrete bridge.”
The good news, Cooper said, is that the replacement to the concrete bridge means the city will not have a problem for decades to come, but for now the 11th Avenue bridge is the newest problem.
Cooper added that the city has already put another bridge replacement into the budget for 2017 to change out the West 29th bridge.
One bridge that has been expanded and improved dramatically is on Tyler Street where the $16.8 million state project to widen that highway past St. Tammany Hospital is right on schedule to be finished this summer.
A recent public hearing was held by DOTD about a planned widening of Highway 190 from the Bogue Falaya River to Ronald Reagan Highway, something that will include a roundabout at the latter intersection. While there is much enthusiasm for that much-needed project, and it is now proceeding forward, it will be several years before it is actually completed.
Cooper also updated attendees about the recent striping project in downtown Covington, the result of information received from a Regional Planning Commission survey. Cooper said it should “improve traffic and safety for our residents” and also maximize the parking spaces.
“It also shows people how close to park to the curbs and that helps traffic when cars aren’t out in the road,” he added. “Also as part of this project we will be improving the corner sidewalk areas to become ADA compliant.”
One resident brought a complaint to the mayor about what she said were abandoned cars being left in the Ox Lot parking areas in town. Cooper said he would have his staff look into it, since there is a 72-hour limit for parking in those lots.
The mayor had a little fun by reporting several recent honors or recognitions for the city that come from numerous online sites, or in some publications.
Covington was recently named one of the best cities for coffee lovers, ranking number 217 out of 500, and also saw Mattina Bella ranked one of the top 10 breakfast spots in the state.
Rob’s Rockin’ Dogs was named fourth in the state for “Top 10 Hot Dog Locations,” and Covington was named the 10th best city to “be in shape.”
Cooper acknowledged the surveys and rankings are mostly “for fun,” and he added to that by donning sunglasses in announcing, “and Covington was named one of the coolest cities in the state.”
The mayor encouraged the public to support the upcoming Covington Community Prayer Breakfast, set for St. Paul’s on May 26 at 7 a.m. where the Covington Kiwanis Club hosts the event that has drawn nearly 400 people each year.
The “Coffee with Cooper” gatherings have gained popularity since the mayor started them six years ago and might need to find a new venue since it has become a standing room only, overflow crowd at the Covington Trailhead meeting room.