A large barge carrying a crane struck the Barataria Bridge on Sunday night, leaving significant damage and rendering the bridge impassable.
It’s the only bridge available to more than 1,000 residents in the community of Barataria, located about 30 minutes south of New Orleans and across the Intracoastal Waterway from the town of Jean Lafitte.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation spent Sunday and Monday assessing the situation after the barge got away from the tugboats guiding it through the Intracoastal Waterway around 9:30 p.m. on Sunday.
That barge struck the moveable portion of the swing bridge, causing “extensive mechanical and structural damage,” said Rodney Mallett, the Department of Transportation’s communications director.
The department has hired a contractor to return that portion of the bridge to the closed position to allow cars to cross while permanent repairs are made. Mallett said the department expects the bridge to be back in place by late next week.
For now, the town is using local charter and swamp boats to transport residents across the water, busing them to their final destination from there. Kerner said the temporary transportation system is carrying people between Griffin Fishing Charters and Lodge to Jean Lafitte Town Hall.
“If you do need a ride to work, please call (504) 689-2208 and provide us with your address before arriving at the old Barataria church next to bridge,” Kerner said on Facebook. “In addition, you can call the same number if you are stranded on the Barataria side.”
Jean Lafitte Police Chief Marcel Rodriguez praised the mayor’s quick action to put together the system in time for the residents to use as early as 6 a.m. Monday morning. As people ferried from one side to the other, Rodriguez said everyone was in good spirits, with some of the youngest riders excited to cross the water in a boat.
While the bridge is struck “fairly regularly,” Rodriguez said, “This is one of the worst ones.”
“When the bridge goes out like this, they’re stranded,” he added. “So hopefully we’re looking at days for repair and not weeks.”
He said there are few if any commercial businesses on the Barataria side of the waterway, leaving those residents without easy access to necessities like emergency services or grocery stores.
However, at least one fireman and Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Police deputy live in the community, and Sunday night, Rodriguez said he received a heartwarming call from a nurse who volunteered to provide medical care in the area if any emergency arose.
“With things like this,” he said, “you always see the best and worst.”