DOTD: Sunshine Bridge still closed after officials report extensive damage; Plaquemine ferry hours extended

DOTD: Sunshine Bridge still closed after officials report extensive damage; Plaquemine ferry hours extended
A barge on the river collided with the bridge, and one of the main load-carrying members of the bridge sustained severe damage. (Source: LA DOTD)

DONALDSONVILLE, LA (WAFB) - The Sunshine Bridge in Donaldsonville will remain closed for an undetermined amount of time while emergency repairs are made, officials with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) announced.

After further inspection this weekend, officials say the bridge damage is extensive and several vital components of the bridge need to be repaired.

“Our hope was to be able to use a portion of the bridge for traffic while emergency repairs were being made,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D. “However, that is not the case. We will be working on plans to make the repairs as quickly as possible and will develop a timeline for when the work will be completed. I know this is an inconvenience for the more than 25,000 travelers who use this bridge, but it is not safe to open it to traffic at this time. The Department has worked closely with legislators and local officials to update them on the situation and to try to minimize impacts as much as possible.”

In attempt to alleviate heavy traffic, the second will operate until 6 p.m. Sunday. The ferry will continue its extended weekend hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. For the weekdays, the second boat will also run until 10 a.m., an hour longer, in the mornings and start at 1:30 p.m., an hour earlier, in the afternoons.

DOTD says drivers are encouraged to use the Veterans Memorial Bridge as an alternate to crossing the river. Officials are advising drivers to be prepared for delays since who would normally use the bridge will use the alternate routes.

On Friday, a barge carrying a crane hit the side of the bridge during the early morning on Friday, October 12. The crane has since been removed. DOTD says they have a contractor in place to make temporary repairs in order to reopen the bridge as quickly as possible.

“We know the closure of the Sunshine Bridge is an inconvenience for many travelers, and we will expedite the emergency repairs,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D. “That being said, safety is our number one concern and we have to ensure the bridge can safely handle traffic before it’s reopened.”

Drones are being used by inspectors to survey the bridge from an additional damage. For now, they have determined that the damage is significant enough to make it unsafe for the traveling public.

ALTERNATE ROUTES:

  • LA 70 westbound traffic may detour by heading east on LA 3125, south on LA 3213 and crossing the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, and west on LA 3127 to the junction of LA 70.  
  • LA 70 eastbound traffic may detour by heading east on LA 3127, north on LA 3213 and crossing the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, and west on LA 3125 to the junction of LA 70. 
  • The second Plaquemine ferry began afternoon operations at 1:30 p.m. instead of 3:15 p.m. to accommodate additional traffic. The ferry will run until its normal ending time at 7:15 p.m. The weekend ferry will also run extra hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. instead of from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Those headed to the Baton Rouge this weekend are advised to use the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Gramercy, the Plaquemine ferry, or the Horace Wilkinson Bridge as alternate routes to get across the river.

It is unknown who was operating the tugboat pulling the crane, or whether it had clearance to go under the bridge.

Several schools in Donaldsonville were forced to delay their start time Friday due to the incident. For more information about how Ascension Parish schools plan to move forward as the bridge remains closed, click here.

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