Common Ground: In honor of our friend, the bridge

It’s nearly impossible to drive in Louisiana and not cross a bridge over a bayou, river or swamp.

That is why many folks in my surrounding community are frustrated with the recent closure of the La. 77 bridge in Grosse Tete. A barge slammed into the swing bridge in late February, stopping commuters from crossing the Intracoastal Waterway at least for the next several months.

Unless you’re an Iberville resident, it’s hard to understand the relationship between commuters and La. 77. It’s a pleasant, traffic-free route that my family and thousands of folks in Iberville Parish have used daily to commute to work, school, home or to reach businesses in Plaquemine.

Without the bridge, we’ve had to do what most folks in Baton Rouge already must do — take I-10.

Without our trusty waterway route, we’re now subjected to those terrible traffic pileups and accidents that seem to occur far too often on the interstate.

My drives on La. 77 to reach the Grosse Tete Bridge were often peaceful and tranquil. The route is heavily wooded with winding roads along a scenic bayou. There are a few houseboats along the way but no big businesses or fast-food restaurants, only farmland filled with roaming cows and horses, log homes and motor homes scattered throughout the landscape.

One educator who frequently traveled La. 77 from the Grosse Tete area to Plaquemine told me the drive gave her time to “organize her thoughts” and “pray.”

Of course, with a swing bridge, drivers always ran the chance of getting held up by a barge.

Waiting on barges to cross the intracoastal have occasionally caused me to be late for school open houses, plays and even a graduation.

I’m still not complaining. The wait was usually no more than 10 to 15 minutes, and it was interesting to watch the boats pass. I’ll take that over sitting in an I-10 traffic parking lot any day.

The drawback now, however, is that many of our children who attend schools in the Plaquemine area, but who live in the northern area of Iberville Parish, are riding buses on an adjusted route and being dismissed from school earlier than normal to compensate for the broken bridge. The earlier dismissals are helpful, but they have also resulted in some of our children missing instructional time, a point we believe the schools will address.

Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso has said he’s trying to find a way to ferry people — without their cars — across the Intracoastal Waterway. This would allow people with access to cars on both sides of the waterway to avoid the 45-minute drive the detour takes.

In a state where millions of people rely on some 13,000 bridges to get across rivers, lakes, bayous and swamps, it’s no wonder our lives are so connected to them.

Without bridges, we would encounter countless transportation woes and challenges.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.