Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- For the community of Barataria, across the bayou, this bridge is a lifeline.
The barge behind me took out the bridge this morning, which means people can’t drive to and from the Jean Lafitte side of bridge. Fishing boats are ferrying people trying to get home.
The Kerner Swing Bridge, which spans the bayou between the town of Jean Lafitte and community of Barataria, is stuck in the open position.
Around 10 a.m. a southbound push barge full of rocks, belonging to Bertucci Contracting, struck the bridge, knocking the portion which swings open off its track. Right now the bridge is closed to both vehicular and marine traffic.
“A tug boat was towing a couple of barges. It was really crazy because the rocks on the barges actually were higher that the cabin of the tug boat. I don’t know how he could have seen anything, but he hit the bridge passing through,” said Jean Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner.
When the bridge goes out it strands hundreds of neighbors on the Barataria side. This is the only bridge linking them to the rest of Jefferson Parish.
The state has been planning to build a new modern fixed bridge here for years.
“They were supposed to build a new bridge down the road. It was in the making, but it went nowhere,” said Barataria neighbor Wayne Carbo. “Everybody is disgusted. We always try to keep a vehicle over here for this.”
“Hopefully, if there is any benefit to this is that it gets that project moving much quicker and this only signifies why it’s so important that the new bridge be constructed,” said Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts.
For now paramedics are stationed on both sides of the bridge and fishing boats are taking people across the water.
Shortly after the barge hit the bridge, local officials enlisted the services of Raymond Griffin’s Charter Boats to become a makeshift Jean Lafitte to Barataria passenger ferry.
“Whatever they need, we’re going to do it. It’s our community; we’re pretty tough down here,” said Barataria fishing guide Raymond Griffin.
Both the Coast Guard and Louisiana Department of Transportation are inspecting the bridge, but because of the extent of the damage, local officials say it could be days, even a week, before this bridge is back in service.
“There is a wheel from what we know that is broken, a gear box and some of the bridge is damaged and bent. DOTD is in the process of assessing the damage to give us a better idea of how long it’s going to take to be fixed,” Roberts said.
Two Jefferson Parish transportation buses are stationed on this side of the bridge to take people to their vehicles.
There is a 15 passenger van on the Baratara side taking people to and from their homes, and as of right now, no time frame for when the Kerner bridge will reopen.