DONALDSONVILLE — State highway officials say they are putting the final touches on a $10.6 million maintenance project to the Sunshine Bridge and expect all four lanes to be reopened in early November.
Contractors began removing concrete barriers Thursday on the Mississippi River span's westbound lanes so workers could replace temporary striping with permanent striping over the next two weeks, state Department of Transportation and Development officials said in a statement Friday.
During that time, one of the westbound lanes will be closed with cones. Striping on the eastbound lanes is also expected and some traffic shifting could be necessary.
The bridge in St. James Parish has been through regular lane closures since a crane barge hit it nearly a year ago on the morning of Oct. 12, 2018.
The crash, which shut the bridge completely for month and a half last year and forced extended detours, highlighted the limited number of river crossings in the region. A top state highway bridge official told a federal panel investigating the incident in May that, on paper, the bridge should have collapsed after the crash due to the location of the damage.
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The emergency repairs from that crash were finished in the spring, but the state began the previously planned $10.6 million repair effort to the bridge's overland approaches that the crash had sidelined.
The bridge connects industrial plants on either side of the river and is an important link for neighboring Ascension Parish, which also is divided by the Mississippi.
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In addition to restriping, contractors also plan other final improvements to bridge, including touch-ups to newly poured concrete barrier rails at new finger joints on the bridge, final adjustments on the newly installed top chord safety cables at the top of the bridge and finishing joint seals and minor deck patches.
Once all four lanes are reopened next month, workers will continue with maintenance under the bridge approaches on both sides of the river. The work is not expected to affect traffic.
A tanker ship hit the Sunshine Bridge on Sunday afternoon, prompting a temporary closure of the span.
All construction activity is weather dependent.
Motorists can access the latest updates on real-time traffic and road conditions using the 511 Traveler Information System by dialing 511 from their telephone and saying the route or region on which they are seeking information.
Out-of-state travelers can call (888) ROAD-511 (888-762-3511). Travelers can also access this information by visiting the 511 website at www.511la.org.