Trusses, and occassionally the skies, to be gray for Sunshine Bridge

Crews will be giving the Sunshine Bridge a fresh paint job in the coming year and a half along with a possible dab of irony.

The state Department of Transportation and Development is spending $25.1 million to clean, structurally rehabilitate and repaint the main truss spans of the metal cantilever bridge carrying La. 70 over the Mississippi River, DOTD officials said. The bridge is in a sliver of St. James Parish that juts between the east and west banks of Ascension Parish.

The trusses create the signature cage-like metal framework seen on the tops of many older Mississippi bridges in Louisiana.

There is some debate about how the Sunshine Bridge, which opened in October 1964 during the administration of Gov. Jimmie Davis, got its name.

Popular imagination often attributes it to Davis’ calling card song, “You Are My Sunshine,” or his horse “Sunshine,” who was named after that song.

The famous song tells of the singer’s imploring his “sunshine,” who makes that person “happy when skies are gray,” to return and not leave to “love another.”

Davis disputed that origins of the bridge’s name are tied to the song or his horse.

The bridge’s old toll authority said the name came from the bridge’s east-west alignment, The Advocate reported in 2000.

In any case, the Sunshine Bridge will be repainted “Louisiana Grey,” DOTD spokesman Dustin Annison said.

He said the same glossy gray paint was used on the Sunshine Bridge’s elevated approaches, which were recently repainted.

Crews plan to shift both directions of traffic to the westbound lanes possibly as soon as Monday, DOTD officials said in a statement Wednesday.

Officials said traffic will remain on the westbound lanes for an extended period while the bridge is painted.

Preparations for the main span’s paint job began in February and the work is not expected be finished until late summer 2015, Annison said. Traffic on the bridge has been limited to one lane in each direction for several weeks.

DOTD officials in the statement Wednesday outlined steps they would be taking in the next five days to prepare for the shift to the westbound lanes.

Striping was planned through Thursday for concrete barrier placement. Barriers would go up Friday through Monday.

DOTD officials added those days could vary somewhat depending on weather and the speed of operations.