The Sunshine Bridge is expected to reopen one lane in each direction on Dec. 1, though there will be limitations, according to the state Department of Transportation and Development.
Vehicles allowed to travel across the reopened side of the bridge must be no wider than 11 feet due to narrowed lanes, with permitted loads capped at 80,000 pounds, DOTD says.
Most 18-wheelers fall into that category and should be allowed to cross, along with school buses and garbage trucks, says DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson. Federal regulations already require trucks not to exceed 80,000 pounds, unless they have a special permit.
“Oversized loads are the ones that will be an issue,” Wilsons says.
Sugarcane trucks, for example, have permits to haul up to 100,000 pounds, Wilson says. That could pose a problem for cane farmers in the area who are in harvesting.
“Cane trucks will have to haul light at this point,” he adds.
Vehicle loads outside of the restrictions must continue to use detour routes.
The speed limit will be restricted to 45 miles per hour for all vehicles. The state will coordinate with Louisiana State Police to ensure enforcement of the restrictions, DOTD says.
The Sunshine Bridge near Donaldsonville has been closed since Oct. 12 when a crane-carrying barge slammed into the Mississippi River span, causing substantial damage.
“Crews have been working 24 hours a day to repair the bridge, which has allowed us the opportunity to partially open the bridge to traffic, which we attempted to do after the collision, but it was determined to be unsafe,” says Wilson in a statement. “The cord damaged by the crane has been replaced and after an initial inspection, the bridge has been deemed safe for thru traffic in a one-lane configuration.”
The bridge is still expected to fully reopen in January.