/Drivers face more than 100 bridges slated for immediate closure

Drivers face more than 100 bridges slated for immediate closure

Officials from the Mississippi Department of Transportation said Monday that more than 100 bridges connecting rural and suburban Mississippi commuters could be shut down in less than 24 hours. MDOT crews also closed a local bridge on Springridge Road in Raymond that was used by commuters from Byram to reach the Jackson metro. One of the many bridges in the state that Gov. Phil Bryant’s last week state of emergency proclamation ordered MDOT to close all city and county bridges found to be in violation of federal National Bridge Inspection Standards. The Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction also requires immediate closure. Otherwise, federal funding could be lost. Melinda McGrath, MDOT’s Executive Director, said that the federal funds could be approximately $525 million. This money helps to fund major repairs on local roads. MDOT could lose the ability to reimburse contractors as a result of this move. McGrath stated that the amount is “very large.” McGrath stated that the state requires more money to transport — whether it be locals or the federal government — and MDOT is helping counties to close bridges that are in dire need of repair or replacement per the state-of-emergency proclamation. The counties decide which bridges will be replaced or repaired first. According to the Office of State Aid Road Construction information, 542 bridges had been closed by April 10. This program helps the state repair and replace its worst bridges and helps counties maintain roads. McGrath stated that while counties ultimately have the responsibility for fixing and replacing local bridges but it is up to the state leaders to find a solution. She said, “The counties cannot afford it.” MDOT offered dirt, signs, and other resources to counties in order to help them close their bridges. McGrath stated that nearly every county in the state, except Hinds and Jones, Jasper, Clarke, Clarke, and Wayne, has closed their bridges. Jones County said, “We are not going to close it. McGrath stated that if you wish to close it, you can do it yourself. Danielle Ashley, Jones County Chief Administrative Officer, stated that the county’s supervisors had previously decided MDOT should close the bridges. They cited a county engineer’s opinion that the bridges weren’t a danger to public safety. Ashley stated that the board asked our county engineer several times to advise them that they didn’t need closing. Ashley stated that other factors that could deter people from closing the bridges include the inconvenience to the public and high costs of repairs. Springridge Road bridge is particularly at risk from shifting and erosion. McGrath stated that a very heavy rain could flood the creek below. That water could then flow under the bridge and slam branches or other debris upstream into the piling, leading to the bridge’s collapse. McGrath stated that the bridge is used by overweight vehicles such as semi trucks. They weigh more than the bridge can support. McGrath stated that if overweight vehicles were to stay off bridges, they could be kept open until counties have the funds necessary to repair and replace them. Bridge closures for commuters will continue until then. Henry Corley, a Byram resident and road cyclist, had just walked around the barriers of the bridge Monday after it was closed. Corley stated that he had encountered three closed bridges on Friday, in addition to the usual number of closed bridges since last week. Corley stated that he had passed through one road and it was blocked two days later. “I didn’t know anything about it, so I had to ride twelve miles more than usual on my bike.”_x000D