Bridge damage kayos trash pickup, school busses and shrimp commerce

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A bridge spanning a small canal in Dulac goes barely noticed by most motorists. But discovery of dangerous structural problems that require immediate repair is making for anxiety even before the first wrench touches a bolt.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has turned the timber bridge on La. 3011 near its junction with Bayou Sale Road and Grand Caillou Road into a one-lane structure, dropping its weight limit from 20-35 tons to 3 tons.

A structural failure on the southbound side has resulted in a closure of that lane. Traffic is being routed alternatively through the northbound lane.

“The substructure inspection performed today by an underwater diving team resulted in an initial assessment that the 3-ton limit can be safely accommodated by the structure in its present state,” a DOTD statement reads. “However, the weight limit may be subject to change as the condition of the structure is still being assessed. DOTD is evaluating short and long term solutions for replacing the bridge.”

The closure is already having effects.

Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government’s Solid Waste Division has suspended all curbside garbage collection effective immediately south of Bayou Sale Road until the LaDOTD repairs the bridge.

Streets included are Grand Caillou Road, Four Point Road, Coast Guard Road, Hooper Lane and Goatfield Road.

The Terrebonne Parish Solid Waste Department has set up a temporary collection site at the corner of Grand Caillou Road and Bayou Sale Road. Residents can call the Terrebonne Parish Solid Waste Division at 985-873-6739 for further information.

Accommodating school busses is a bit more tricky. For now school busses can pick up children on the north side of the bridge, at the parking area for the David Chauvin Seafood company. Parents will have to drive children using the alternate lane setup to reach that location.

Stat eRep. Beryl Amedee spent most of Thursday out at the bridge talking with DOTD officials, divers, business owners and residents.

“This means trouble,” Amedee said of the reduction. “It imposes on fire trucks and ambulances, school busses and garbage trucks, and commerce, fuel trucks, seafood production and ice.”

Amedee said DOTD officials told her a temporary bridge may be built alongside the current structure, relieving some of the weight restriction concerns.

The Huey Ice Company, which sells ice to shrimp boats, is expected to have difficulty moving trucks under the new restriction. Jensen Seafood, farther down the bayou, may not be able to send big trucks back and forth to its dock.

DOTD officials, however, are certain that leaving the weight limit the same can result in death and serious injury and are not taking any chances. A date for completion of the repairs has not yet been determined.

For Kim and David Chauvin, the restriction will have immediate effects in the ability to move shrimp from one dock – the David Chauvin Seafood Company on the north side – to the other.

The Chauvins are distressed because slips they rent to shrimp boats in the vicinity of the bridge will likely have to be occupied by DOTD’s alternative.

“Doing it on the other side of the bridge would be cheaper,” said Kim Chauvin, who will be compensated for downtime, but who also says compensation for lost boat tenants is not a total cure.

“DOTD doesn’t understand that if boats leave the dock they may not come back,” Chauvin said. “We will be losing six boats … It’s going to cost them a lot more coming this way. It would have been much cheaper to maintain the bridge.”

State Rep Beryl Amedee discusses Dulac bridge emergency with shrimp processor Daniel Babin