A barge-mounted crane has slammed into a Louisiana bridge, shuttering a travel artery for what Louisiana officials say will be at least a few months.
Operators for Marquette Transportation hit the Sunshine Bridge at Donaldsonville early Friday morning, The Advocate reported. U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Commander Raymond Wagner said it was not clear what exactly the barge was doing, where it was headed or who was on board when it ran into the bridge.
Repairs to the bridge are expected to take “months rather than days,” according to a statement from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
“Because of the extensive damage, permanent repairs to the bridge are necessary prior to reopening it to vehicular traffic. The Department continues to find damage to the structure,” the statement said.
The 1.5-mile bridge connects communities throughout the state’s industrial corridor. Chemical plant workers use the four-lane bridge to reach plants lining the banks of the Mississippi River, while other commuters take the bridge to shorten drives around Donaldsonville, Gonzales and Baton Rouge.
Marquette Transportation President Damon Judd said there were no injuries and “no impact to the environment.” But the state Department of Transportation and Development said Sunday that damage is extensive and several vital components of the bridge are in need of repair.
“Our hope was to be able to use a portion of the bridge for traffic while emergency repairs were being made,” DOTD Secretary Shawn D. Wilson said in the statement.
Wilson recognized that the closure is inconvenient to commuters, but he said the bridge just simply isn’t safe. In the meantime, the Plaquemine ferry is extending its hours.
Highway officials suggest motorists use the bridge at Gramercy, 20 miles south, or the ferry at Plaquemine, 28 miles north. The next closest bridge is at Baton Rouge, a 33-mile (53.1-kilometer) one-way drive to the north.
Marquette is the same company that was operating the towboat that crashed barges into Mardi Gras World in New Orleans this year.
Friday’s crash was also not the first time a Marquette Transportation vessel hit a bridge. The company managed the towing vessel that hit the U.S. 80 bridge near Vicksburg, Mississippi in 2008.
Marquette was also listed as an “involved organization” in another collision in 2014 with the U.S. 190 bridge in Baton Rouge. A barge carrying corn hit a beam supporting the bridge and took on water, but did not sink, according to Coast Guard records. The bridge was not damaged, according to records.
Federal court records show Marquette was involved with a 2014 collision in East Baton Rouge Parish when a vessel operated by Marquette crashed into another vessel.
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