IBERVILLE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Traffic is once again flowing over the Grosse Tete Bridge in Iberville Parish. It's the only route that directly connects Plaquemine and Grosse Tete. The other option is going around I-10 and through Port Allen. That was the route about 1,400 drivers were often forced to take for three months beginning in February after a barge hit the bridge.
"It made a short, five-minute ride into a 45-minute ride," said Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi.
Because a portion of the bridge literally shifted on top and the pilings below cracked, it was shut down to traffic for 45 days. The Department of Transportation and Development spent $900,000 on emergency repairs. During the reconstruction, Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso said they had to step in.
"As soon as that assessment was done that it would be out for up to 70 to 90 days, that's when the parish took immediate action," said Ourso.
That immediate action was a makeshift, pedestrian-only ferry. State Wildlife and Fisheries donated the boat used to transfer drivers who left their cars on each bank and the land for the docks on both sides was also donated. But Ourso said the parish still had to pay for other things.
"With the parking lots, I had to have attendants on both sides which is an insurance requirement,. I think the parish had right at $100,000 involved in the 60 to 70 days this bridge was out," said Ourso.
The 9News Investigators requested expense reports from Iberville Parish.
- Labor & personnel: $19,068.19
- Ferry insurance : $49,680.00
- Equipment: $27,361.43
In total, Iberville Parish shelled out $96,109.62. That did not include additional costs for the Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office.
"The bridge would be used multiple times a day by the units and anybody who was arrested on the north end and had to be transported to the jail would have to make that round through Port Allen," said Stassi.
In April of this year, Sheriff Stassi spent much more in fuel costs when compared to April 2012 and 2013.
- April 2012: $42,271.68
- April 2013: $45,039.18
- April 2014: $52,548.71
"The increased fuel costs were directly related to the bridge being out because of the fact we had to make that 45-minute ride instead of the five minutes to cross the bridge and we had to make it several times a day," said Stassi.
In total, the parish tab was at least $104,000.
So will the parish will be reimbursed? Only if the state files suit against the barge company because the bridge was a state infrastructure. That has not happened yet and the state has until next February to decide if it will do so and possibly reimburse Iberville Parish for the money spent.
Ourso said he is going to the ask the council for a resolution so they can send the state their portion of the expenses.