A bridge too noisy

It was a small, simple idea of elegance, Anne Parr’s bed and breakfast at the foot of Houma’s small city marina, with its nautical décor and understated presence.

But for the former Nicholls State University culinary professor, the dream has turned into a nightmare, and she now speaks of closing down the Port House, a business that could have been an anchor for future lodging and related services in Houma’s downtown.

The problem – as it has been since 2014 – is a defective expansion joint on the Houma twin span. Repeated pleas to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development have been politely received. For a shining instant early this year it appeared that the work might actually get done. But to no avail. This despite prodding from State Rep. Tanner Magee, who attempted to intercede.

“I would like to think that the system works, that a taxpayer with a genuine issue regarding public safety or quality of life could have those concerns addressed in a timely manner by going through the appropriate channels,” Ann said. “I have unfortunately been proven wrong. I first voiced my concerns to DOTD in 2014.”

The turn-of-the-last century cottage, with a few little fishes adorning the siding, a concrete pelican amid potted flowers on the lawn, and similar motif, is a welcome respite from the industrial tone most of Houma’s waterfront areas display. Dominique’s and Bilello’s are among the few downtown eateries that play to this strength. On the east side, Melvin’s on the Intracoastal is a model of how a maritime community can be reflected well in the places where people dine. Our waterfronts are dominated, of course, by businesses serving the oil and gas industry. It is understandable that fabrication yards and eating and lodging don’t mix.

So along comes Anne Parr and this darling little property with its two guest rooms, and what a trend this could start.

But DOTD has been unable to accommodate.

Most recently the parish government’s economic development folks have tried to intervene, but so far there is no tell-tale lane closure on the bridge.

The problem is the noise the bridge makes when tires go over this one spot. A telephone conversation with Anne is punctuated repeatedly by the noise, even when she is inside the house. This problem, which did not exist when Anne opened the place up, causes customers to awaken from sleep, or not be able to sleep at all. It is reflected in online reviews, which these days are essential to the health of any bed-and-breakfast. If not so tragic, it would be reminiscent of the train-behind-the-hotel scene in a famous “I Love Lucy” episode.

Chris Morvant, DOTD’s district engineer administrator, noted in a January letter to Tanner Magee that attempts were made to solve the problem in the past crews that could possibly do the work were dealing with flooding issues to structures and roads in other parts of the state. Work, Morvant said, was to begin Feb. 13. It never happened.

Now at wit’s end, Anne may reluctantly turn to the courts.

“That’s not the kind of thing I want to do, that’s not who I am,” she said.

For the sake of Houma, we might hope that any action taken will result in action to rescue the little Port House, rather than just pay its owners for its loss. Because the loss of such a sweet business to this community would be sad indeed.

John DeSantis