UPDATE: DOTD has replaced damaged crossbeams over HWY 353 bridge

Lafayette Parish

UPDATE: The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development tells News 10 all crossbeams should be replaced today, Monday, Nov. 8. DOTD started replacing the secondary supports last Thursday.

ORIGINAL STORY: LAFAYETTE and ST. MARTIN PARISHES, La. (KLFY) — A bridge connecting Lafayette and St. Martin Parishes is worrying people who use it. It’s the Highway 353 bridge over the Vermilion River, and pictures of the deteriorating understructure have been shared hundreds of times online.

From above the Highway 353 bridge on Lake Martin Road, you’d never know what’s missing underneath. You’d have to have a fish’s eye view or a fisherman’s. To Wilford Francis, who frequents the Vermilion River’s banks often, the HWY 353 bridge has a lot in common with fishing. He sees people putting their lives on the line and where catching someone off guard is only a matter of time.

“I see a disaster waiting to happen,” Francis told News 10. “It needs to be fixed man before they have a tragedy.”

While recording video of the bridge, KLFY reporter Neale Zeringue saw more than a dozen 18 wheelers full of sugar cane cross the bridge every hour in addition to those who use the road regularly like Kenneth Haynes.

“You take it for granted,” Haynes admitted. “You pass on it every day, and you just don’t think twice about it, but now that you see something like this, it kind of makes you think a little bit more, and it kind of worries me.”

“We’ve looked at it, and it is safe.”

Rodney Mallett, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Communication Director

We reached out to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) to learn if drivers have anything to worry about. Communication Director Rodney Mallett said all the crossbeams are secondary support and only affect lateral stability.

Mallett explained, “There are six piles that hold that primary load. We’ve looked at it, and it is safe. It’s still open. I think we’re going to go out this week and look at those cross braces and see if they can be repaired or replaced.”

We witnessed DOTD replacing a guard rail on the bridge Wednesday. Some of the crew did look at the crossbeams from the bank, but no work was performed at that time.

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