Grosse Tete bridge to re-open by mid-June

GROSSE TETE, LA (WAFB) - It's a sight many in Iberville Parish are thankful for: construction crews repairing the Grosse Tete Bridge.  

"I am so ready.  I think I'm going to get down and kiss the bridge when I get on it," said Janelle Lewis, who lives on the Grosse Tete side.

On February 28th, a barge hit the bridge shifting the entire structure by about six inches.  

In March, the state Department of Transportation and Development signed with a contractor and announced it would be 60-90 days to basically rebuild the bridge. Now, people in boats pass by to check the status.

DOTD's Rodney Mallett said rebuilding is right on schedule.

"We're expecting a mid-June opening," said Mallett. "They tore down the old bridge. They started to pour the concrete for the new bridge."

The destroyed pilings were literally down to the wires. Now, new pilings are already next to the old ones with a brand new concrete structure to hold up the bridge. While crews finish up the repairs, a Wildlife and Fisheries loaned party barge has been serving as a ferry.

"It had saved a lot of money because that's an 88 mile trip for us where this is coming across here, 15 miles maybe," said Lewis.

Lewis uses the ferry at least twice a week to see her mother who lives on the other side of the bayou. Like her, many people have one car parked on the Plaquemine side and one on the Grosse Tete side and use the ferry that goes seven days a week for the morning rush hours and then the evening drive home.  

"I am very very thankful. Thank god they've got the ferry boat for us because it would have been really bad for us to go around every day to go to Plaquemine," said Lewis.

On average, about 200 people use the ferry every single day and since it started back in March, more than 8,000 people have used it to transport from side-to-side.

But the temporary fix comes at a hefty price to taxpayers according to Iberville Sheriff Brett Stassi.

"Counting the insurance and the manpower, it's getting close to $150,000 that it's costing taxpayers just to maintain this foot ferry," said Sheriff Stassi.

Not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars it's costing the Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office when it comes to fuel costs.

"Every prisoner we arrest on the north end, we have to come through Port Allen and fight that traffic coming around and as my units change shifts, we have to go through Port Allen to get the new units on the north end so it's cost me some fuel expense as well as stretch my staff," said Sheriff Stassi.

But a solution is near. In less than two months, the bridge is expected to be back in business.

The state is picking up the tab for the bridge repairs as of now. No word yet on whether DOTD and Iberville Parish will be reimbursed.

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