Sunshine River Bridge drone 005.JPG

An 18-wheeler heads over the westbound side of the Sunshine Bridge Friday, May 3, 2019, crossing the Mississippi River between the Convent and Donaldsonville area. Far in the background are fertilizer plants owned by Mosaic, left, and CF Industries, right. The bridge, which was hit by a crane barge last year and shut for months, carries nearly 25,000 vehicles per day.

State highway crews closed a westbound lane of the Sunshine Bridge and will keep certain heavy loads off the span until repairs are made to a "significant crack."

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development found the crack during a routine inspection of the bridge that carries La. 70 between Donaldsonville and Sorrento. The bridge was closed for seven weeks in 2018 after being struck by a crane.

"The bridge is safe for the traveling public to cross," the highway department said. "The lane closure is in place out of an abundance of caution until the repairs can be made. No permitted loads (trucks that need a permit from DOTD) will be able to use the bridge until the repairs are in place."

The agency said crews will monitor the crack; if the bridge becomes unsafe, it will be shut down.

A repair schedule had not been set as of Thursday, DOTD said. Once materials are delivered, repairs would likely be done quickly, it said.

“This is a perfect example of why we inspect our bridges on a regular basis,” DOTD Secretary Shawn D. Wilson said. "Lane closures for bridge inspections and closing bridges entirely because of safety reasons can be an inconvenience, I know, but it beats the alternative of having people driving in unsafe conditions.”

The bridge was closed for 49 days in 2018 after a barge-mounted crane struck it. It was determined later that the crew thought the crane was 6 feet shorter than it actually was. 

Following the crash, the state's chief bridge engineer said the entire span could have fallen into the river. "If you ran the numbers, on paper, it probably should have come down," David Miller told a federal panel in May 2019.


Email Kelly P. Kissel at kkissel@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter, @kisselAP