DONALDSONVILLE, LA (WAFB) - The Sunshine Bridge in Donaldsonville will remain closed for an undetermined amount of time while emergency repairs are made, officials with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) announced.
DOTD released another update on the bridge’s condition Monday afternoon, saying they continue to find damage. Engineers are in the process of finalizing a design in order to perform the repairs. Once the design is done, the estimated timeline for the project will be released. At this point, officials believe the bridge will be closed for months, not days.
“The damage is to key members of the bridge and has rendered it unsafe to traffic. While we have identified a contractor and are moving forward with expediting this work, it is important to know there is not an easy fix for this kind of damage. There is no temporary fix that will allow us to safely open the bridge,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson, Ph.D. “Our hope was to be able to use a portion of the bridge for traffic while emergency repairs were being made, however, that is not the case. We will be working on plans to make the repairs as quickly as possible and will develop a timeline for when the work will be completed. I know this is an inconvenience for the more than 25,000 travelers who use this bridge, but it is not safe to open it to traffic at this time. The department has worked closely with legislators and local officials to update them on the situation and to try to minimize impacts as much as possible.”
DOTD says when two ferries are running, they will depart every 15 minutes. When only one is running, the boat will leave every 30 minutes. DOTD goes on to say the reopening of the White Castle ferry has been ruled out for several reasons, including the lengthy process to implement a new ferry route. Additionally, DOTD no longer has property access to the former landings at White Castle, meaning they would have to obtain access from landowners and permission to build on the levee by the Corps of Engineers.
DOTD says drivers are encouraged to use the Veterans Memorial Bridge as an alternate to crossing the river. Officials are advising drivers to be prepared for delays since who would normally use the bridge will use the alternate routes.
A new signal-timing sequence is also being implemented at the intersection of LA 3127 and LA 20. DOTD says technicians will be at the intersection to monitor traffic and operate the signal manually if the new timings are moving traffic along fast enough. Technicians will also be at the following intersections:
- LA 3125/LA 3213
- LA 3125/LA 3274
- US 61/LA 641
These changes are being implemented due to extra traffic on detour routes due to the closure of the bridge.
“The collision happened on a Friday and we monitored traffic throughout the weekend,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D. “With light weekend traffic and schools being out on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday will be the largest traffic day since the incident occurred. It’s an industry best practice to monitor the traffic patterns after a major incident and adjust accordingly. There is a good chance we will make more adjustments before the bridge is reopened in an effort to minimize impacts where we can. The department continues to work with local and state law enforcement and elected officials to try and mitigate as much of the congestion as possible. We ask that people who normally use the Sunshine Bridge to plan ahead and be prepared for more congestion than usual on other routes.”
On Friday, October 12, a barge carrying a crane hit the side of the bridge during the early morning. The crane has since been removed. DOTD says they have a contractor in place to make temporary repairs in order to reopen the bridge as quickly as possible.
“We know the closure of the Sunshine Bridge is an inconvenience for many travelers, and we will expedite the emergency repairs,” said Wilson. “That being said, safety is our number one concern and we have to ensure the bridge can safely handle traffic before it’s reopened.”
Drones are being used by inspectors to survey the bridge from an additional damage. For now, they have determined that the damage is significant enough to make it unsafe for the traveling public.
- LA 70 westbound traffic may detour by heading east on LA 3125, south on LA 3213 and crossing the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, and west on LA 3127 to the junction of LA 70.
- LA 70 eastbound traffic may detour by heading east on LA 3127, north on LA 3213 and crossing the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, and west on LA 3125 to the junction of LA 70.
- The second Plaquemine ferry began afternoon operations at 1:30 p.m. instead of 3:15 p.m. to accommodate additional traffic. The ferry will run until its normal ending time at 7:15 p.m. The weekend ferry will also run extra hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. instead of from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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It is unknown who was operating the tugboat pulling the crane, or whether it had clearance to go under the bridge.
Several schools in Donaldsonville were forced to delay their start time Friday due to the incident. For more information about how Ascension Parish schools plan to move forward as the bridge remains closed, click here.