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Grosse Tete Bridge closed after boat hits structure; crews say at least 3 months until repairs complete

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GROSSE TETE - Crews said the Grosse Tete drawbridge would be closed for at least three months for repairs after a boat hit it early Thursday morning.  

The Maringouin Volunteer Fire Department said their crews were notified by LaDOTD that a boat had collided with the drawbridge just on La. 77 west of Plaquemine around 5:30 a.m. A DOTD dive team was also sent to the scene to assess the damage.

The bridge was in the process of opening when it was struck by the barge, Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi said.

"It did damage to the turnstyle under it which is a pivot point. And significant damage to the concrete as well as some of the metal structure under that," Stassi said.

Officials on the scene said the bridge would be closed for an estimated three months. Officials said a pontoon boat would be secured to ferry residents from one side of the river to the other.

"It's not convenient for all residents because you have to leave a vehicle, but it is convenient for those who can drive and have somebody get on the ferry and then have somebody pick them up on the other side," Parish President Chris Daigle said.

According to Stassi, fog played a major part in the accident, as did miscommunication.

"Between the boat captain and the bridge attendant, distance got closed way faster than either one was ready and it caused the impact," he said.

The three months estimate would bleed into the upcoming school year. It's unclear how the parish will accommodate students living on either side of the Port Allen Lock.

GOHSEP encouraged drivers to use an alternate route, but detours are scarce. Drivers will have to use La. 1 to bypass the closure, a detour that can exceed 46 miles or an hour of drivetime. It is usually a 15 minute commute.

"It's going to be extremely tough on our Iberville parish residents who live on that side," Stassi said.

This isn't the first time this bridge was put out of commission for an extended period of time, with Stassi saying this happened nine years ago.

Once an investigation of the tugboat and the company that manages it is complete, the Coast Guard will open the bridge for commercial traffic only. 

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