GROSSE TETE — Iberville Parish residents who use the La. 77 bridge to cross the Intracoastal Waterway will have to take another route for the next few months after a barge slammed into the bridge this weekend, damaging it so severely that the state closed it.
“There is no timeline at the moment. We’re still trying to assess the damage,” said Rodney Mallett, a Department of Transportation and Development spokesman. “We do know it’s going to be extensive work.”
Ryan Tippets, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard, said Monday that investigators don’t know what caused the barge to crash into the bridge.
Tippets said the captain of the tugboat pulling the barge was not issued a citation, and the Coast Guard has closed its investigation into the incident.
The crash severely damaged the wood apron on the Plaquemine side of the bridge and shifted its concrete foundation, making it impossible for the swing bridge’s interlocking system to work.
DOTD and other state officials had a series of meetings Monday with parish officials about the bridge and how its shutdown would affect Grosse Tete residents who frequently use it to travel to Plaquemine.
Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso said state officials informed the parish the bridge could be closed a minimum of 60 days.
In the meantime, Ourso 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 is expected to take.
“The state is in negotiations with a contractor right now — not one to repair the bridge — a contractor that owns a crew-boat type vessel that is enclosed and can haul up to 15 people from the west bank to the east bank,” Ourso said Monday.
The parish is trying to find a landowner willing to let the parish build a dock to load and unload passengers from such a boat, Ourso said.
“We’re trying to ease the inconvenience of people having to drive around,” he said. “It’s probably going to take us a couple of days to line everything up.”
Monday afternoon the DOTD released an alternate route for commuters.
The detour from the east side of the bridge, closest to Plaquemine, is: La. 77 toward Plaquemine, north on La. 1, west on Interstate 10 to the La. 77 Grosse Tete exit. From the west side, closest to Grosse Tete, motorists can take: La. 77 to I-10 east, exit onto La. 1 south toward Plaquemine to La. 77.