Gov. Edwards expects Sunshine Bridge to reopen in Jan. 2019

Contractor “working 24/7” on repairs
A barge on the river collided with the bridge, and one of the main load-carrying members of the...
A barge on the river collided with the bridge, and one of the main load-carrying members of the bridge sustained severe damage. (Source: LA DOTD)
Updated: Oct. 24, 2018 at 6:56 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

DONALDSONVILLE, LA (WAFB) - Governor John Bel Edwards announced during a press conference Wednesday afternoon that he expects the Sunshine Bridge to reopen in January 2019.

The governor says he understands the important role the bridge plays in the economy since, “25 percent of the users of the bridge are commercial haulers and farmers, however, safety is the priority."

Edwards said Coastal Bridge Company, llc has been contracted to repair the bridge and crews will be working 24 hours per day to repair the bridge that was damaged when a crane hit it on October 12.

Officials say the part of the bridge damaged was a “major compression member." DOTD Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson says the strength of the bridge has been “tremendously compromised.”

Christopher Knotts, chief engineer for DOTD said, “On a dead load, which is only the structure, no wind or vehicles, it carries 1.7 million pounds of compression.”

Governor Edwards and DOTD Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson saw the damage to the bridge from a tug boat Wednesday morning. Edwards said the damage was more severe than he expected.

“All the rivets that are popped and missing, the twisted steel, the compromised structure... there’s just no doubt in my mind that the repairs are going to be extensive and between now and then it is not safe,” the governor said.

Recognizing this fix won’t be easy. DOTD says the materials will be welded and fabricated on a barge, not on land, making the process a tad bit harder during less than desirable weather.

“The weather is not just the rain, it could be the wind,” the governor explained. “If the wind gets much stronger than it is right now, you can’t work at those heights. You can’t safely operate the crane.”

Louisiana has seen its fair share of bridge closures, but this one is a little different. Marquette Transportation, the company held responsible, has been involved in 27 bridge accidents. The governor says this accident wasn’t the “result of deferred maintenance or deteriorating conditions. This was simply an act of negligence, something that should not have happened.”

DOTD says they estimate repairs to cost $5 million. That figure does not include costs associated with monitoring and improving traffic flow through state and local law enforcement agencies.

“Rest assured, Louisiana will aggressively pursue Marquette Barge for reimbursement of all the state costs associated with the repairs,” the governor said. “We understand the hardship that’s being caused by this bridge closure, and it’s causing people to spend more in gas, spending more time in traffic. We know it’s harder to get to and from work, so it’s having an impact on quality of life.”

The governor says the state does not have the authority to restrict the operator following the crash, however, DOTD will investigate and provide additional details to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The governor also says he signed an executive order relieving the hourly restriction of commercial drivers coming to or departing from the region. He says if the restrictions were kept in place, it would most likely hurt industry operations.

Dr. Wilson says Marquette Transportation filed an action to limit their claims to 1.5 million. He says that is “woefully below what the estimate is.” Attorneys from both sides will meet next week.



  • 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.

Copyright 2018 WAFB. All rights reserved.