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Frustrated commuters call for officials to 'raise hell' after Sunshine Bridge closure

2 years 6 months 3 days ago Friday, October 19 2018 Oct 19, 2018 October 19, 2018 6:10 PM October 19, 2018 in News
Source: WBRZ

PLAQUEMINE- Commuters fighting hour-long waits in traffic want to see more done to alleviate the headaches they now face, including the construction of a new bridge. It comes one week after the Sunshine Bridge closed indefinitely after a crane barge crashed into it.

Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso said upset constituents have been calling him, asking him to "raise hell." He's been listening to all of their complaints.

"Always too big to hide and too fat to run," Ourso said. "I've got to sit here and deal with it."

A crane barge operated by Marquette Transporation crashed into the support structure of the Sunshine Bridge one week ago. Since then, the bridge has been rendered useless.

At the ferry landing in Plaquemine, drivers' frustrations boiled over Friday.

"Baton Rouge is worse than California," Chuck Kelly said. "Baton Rouge has the worst traffic I've ever seen."

For some, the closure of the Sunshine Bridge has benefited them.

"Business has been good," Vanessa Gillis said.

Gillis has spent her week going up and down to waiting cars at the ferry landing selling pecan candy. Gillis said that has been quite lucrative, but she feels for the drivers waiting for hours trying to get across the river.

Ourso said this week the parish council met to come up with ways to help alleviate the traffic problem that has cropped up near the ferry landing in light of all the excess traffic that is coming through Iberville now.

"'Will you start to raise hell?'" Ourso said. "That's what most people are telling me. We need another bridge."

Ourso said that dialogue continues, but even if the $1.3 billion is secured, it is likely to take at least a decade for the bridge and the approaches to be constructed.

"I think John Bel is doing a great job and everything he can with the incident that has happened," Ourso said. "I have full faith and confidence that when he leaves office, he is going to get us another bridge."

As the focus now shifts to fixing the Sunshine Bridge, others believe a new bridge is overdue.

"They spend a lot of money on studies," Kelly said. "It's time to stop studying and start doing. It's really not that complicated."

Ourso said he would like to see a full investigation by the Coast Guard into Marquette Transportation. That is the same company that took out the Grosse Tete Bridge in 2014. We've reached out to Marquette Transportation and the Coast Guard but haven't heard back.

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