ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH, La. (WGNO) — The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development announced Interstate 55 southbound is reopen on Thursday morning.
As of Thursday, Oct. 26, inspectors have cleared the bridge to reopen one lane just days after a massive pile-up that left eight people dead and several others injured.
DOTD officials are advising drivers that the I-55 northbound lanes will remain closed as inspections continue.
“We have to inspect it and we know we are going to have to make repairs,” says DOTD spokesperson Rodney Mallet.
Inspections of the I-55 crash site are underway as crews spent the day clearing up leftover debris from the deadly 168-car pileup earlier this week.
“There was a lot of sand and absorbent material soaking up the oil and the gas and liquids that were on the roadway. We had to clean up all of that and then we started our inspections,” says Mallet.
I-55 southbound is reopened but reduced to one lane near the crash site. Chris Ashley sees it as a way to ease the traffic flow, especially as she goes that way to see family.
“I think it will help them a lot especially with those big trucks. I think it will be better coming back from Mississippi and all that stuff but I’m not in a big rush,” says I-55 commuter Ashley.
As Louisiana State Police continue their investigation into the crashes, DOTD emphasizes the stretch of I-55 will remain closed in both directions until it can be deemed safe and inspected thoroughly.
“We don’t know how extensive those repairs are going to be. This is a process and the number one is to open the bridge and open it when it is safe,” says Mallet.
Drivers tell WGNO, they are okay waiting and don’t want the unthinkable to happen again.
“As long as they have a little road right here I’m fine,” says Ashley.
“It takes a while to inspect a bridge you can’t do that overnight. That heat that was up there could have done damage to that cement. The stuff all over the road, I mean safety is everything to everybody,” says another I-55 commuter.
DOTD is asking drivers to stay patient for the next few days as that inspection continues.
There’s no word on a timeline for when the entire bridge will completely reopen.
Travelers can also find information regarding road closures and traffic by downloading the 511 app, visiting www.511la.org, or by dialing 511 from their telephone and saying the route or region about which they are seeking information. Out-of-state travelers can access the system by calling 1-888-ROAD-511 (1-888-762-3511).
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