Iberville school buses rerouted after bridge closure

GROSSE TETE, LA (WAFB) - Miles out on La 1, there's a sign that alerts drivers reading "LA 77 closed.  Use alternate route."

For Donna Sanchez, who lives on the west side of the bridge, that alternate route includes leaving one car on the Plaquemine side of the Intracoastal and another back at home on the Grosse Tete side.

"My husband went around from our house to bring his truck to this side, and then we went to town.  We did our little groceries and paying our bills," said Sanchez.

Groceries that Sanchez said will last them about a week.  Even though she used to cross the bridge several times a day, now she's trying to limit how often she makes the trip.  It's why she's also loading up on gas at the Nash Express convenience store.

"Me and my family come to this store right here 5, 6, 7 times a day," said Sanchez.  "Everybody I know on that side stops right here first."  When asked how often she comes now, "This is my first time here since the accident."

It's why store manager Adnan Mohamed said they're suffering with sales plummeting.

"There's nobody coming.  Nobody crossing the bridge and nobody coming towards the bridge," said Mohamed, who added sales are down by nearly 80-90%.

Nash Express is about a mile from the Grosse Tete bridge that's now shut down after a barge destroyed nearly 50 feet of the apron on one side on Friday.  An entire section of the concrete structure shifted about six inches.  All eight pilings beneath are damaged, some more severely, others with cracks.  It's why bridge crews were out inspecting the damage Monday.  The closed barricades are expected to stay up for the next two to three months, and mohamed said he's not sure how he will make it that long because since the bridge shut down, he's been closing earlier because there's not enough business.

"In three days, I made what I would usually make in one day," said Mohamed.  "We're not making any money right now.  We can't pay the rent.  We can't do nothing."

Meanwhile, Sanchez is making do the only way she can right now.

"I have to take my groceries in the boat, then unload them out the boat to my house," said Sanchez.

The Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development, or DOTD, is already looking into a contract to repair the bridge. They're also looking into other transportation options, including a ferry.  In the meantime, more than 300 children need to get from one side to the other for school everyday.

"Our objective is to minimize the inconvenience and maximize instruction," said Iberville School Superintendent Ed Cancienne.

Cancienne said students at Plaquemine High, Math Science and Arts Academy and Crescent Elementary are impacted by the bridge closure.  It's why, beginning Wednesday, eight buses will take a much longer route, I-10 to LA 1 to their schools, instead of simply crossing the bridge.  But Cancienne said parents do not need to stress.  

"The buses will leave at approximately the same time and get to school a little later and leave school a little earlier," said Cancienne.  "I've talked to principals and we're ready to adjust schedules to make sure the students are accommodated."   

The Coast Guard's investigation into the barge's collision is still ongoing and whether the barge's driver will be cited remains under investigation.

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