The state Department of Transportation and Development said it plans to reopen the La. 77 bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway in Iberville Parish as soon as it judges the bridge safe for travel, which could happen as early as Saturday.

DOTD expects the bridge, which connects Gross Tete to Plaquemine, to be open to travelers sometime this weekend, although the agency won’t officially open it until it is safe to drive over, said Rodney Mallet, a DOTD spokesman.

The bridge has been closed since a barge crashed into it the night of Feb. 28.

The closure forced many people who live and work in the area to drive 45 minutes out of the way to cross the waterway.

A pedestrian ferry set up by state and parish officials has carried about 18,000 people across the waterway since it began operating in early March. The waterway wasn’t wide enough for a vehicle-carrying ferry, Mallet said.

If, as expected, the bridge opens this weekend, the repairs will have been completed about 45 days ahead of schedule, Mallet said.

An average of 1,400 vehicles traveled across the bridge daily prior to its closure, Mallet said.

The crash severely damaged the wood apron on the Plaquemine side of the bridge and shifted its concrete foundation, making it impossible for the swing bridge’s interlocking system to work.

The cause of the crash is unknown, and the U.S. Coast Guard closed its investigation into the wreck in early March.

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