Dozens of county bridges could close

Published 7:55 am Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Jefferson Davis County’s largest and most valuable capital asset is its road infrastructure, which includes roads, bridges, culverts and associated rights-of-way.

Many bridges in the county are in jeopardy of being closed.

According to County Engineer Les Dungan, a discovery was made by the Federal Highway Administration that Mississippi had more category two bridges open with timber pilings than any other state in the nation.

The FHA and Mississippi Department of Transportation are in the process of looking at the 2,600 bridges in the state that have timber components. They are being inspected by an independent inspector.

“They are taking a more conservative approach than in years past,” said Dungan.

“Those bridges with advanced deterioration or decay are being closed, instead of posting a low weight bearing sign or closing one lane.

“The last timber piling driven in JDC was in the ‘80s”, said Dungan.

“It was common practice from the early ‘60s until the mid-80s to use timber, until concrete and steel became the norm.”

The inspectors have already looked at four bridges in Jefferson Davis County and closed them immediately.

Bridges on Higgs Road, Speights Road, Jones Ford Road and Candy Lane, were all closed.

District 2 Supervisor Charles Reid took immediate action and repaired the bridge on Candy Lane, which is now open to traffic. The other three bridges remain closed.

Jefferson Davis County has 108 bridges that are on the National Bridge Inventory, of these, 33 have significant timber components.

Bridges are inspected either every 12 months or 24 months based on the condition.

An overall bridge condition rating can be determined using the lowest National Bridge Index component rating for deck, superstructure and substructure.

Also, bridges are considered structurally deficient if they have a National Bridge Index component rating of four or less for either deck, superstructure, or substructure.

Structurally Deficient means a bridge’s significant load carrying elements are found to be in poor condition due to deterioration and/or damage.

A chart detailing the summary of condition ratings can be found on page 12.

Since 1996, approximately $5.4 million of state aid funds have been utilized to replace and/or rehabilitate approximately 17 bridges in Jefferson Davis County.

Currently there are two bridges under contract for reconstruction and three bridges programmed, utilizing approximately $1.7 million of Local System Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program and State Aid funds for replacement/rehabilitation.

Kings Road is currently under contract and is 0 percent complete.

Ebenezer Road is also under contract and is 90 percent complete.

The Speights Road bridge is currently closed to traffic.

Bass Burkett Road has two bridges that are planned for replacement.

“The design is complete, the right-of-way has been acquired and we are awaiting funds from the state,” said Dungan. The supervisor will need to make minor repaires in order to keep the bridge open until the funds from the state are available.

The 33 bridges remaining with significant timber components have a rating of 4 or less.

“To repair and or rehabilitate the remaining 33 bridges will cost an estimated five million dollars,” said Dungan.

When the gaming industry was legalized in Mississippi, funds from the industry went to help fund education and road and bridge infrastructure. That only lasted two years. Afterward, it was funded by a bond issue. This year the state chose not to fund it at all.

“The bridge problem isn’t going away,” said Board of Supervisors President Corky Holliman. More of our bridges could be closed immediately. Even if they weren’t closed, they may need to be closed in the near future.

“The concern in Jefferson Davis County and all counties in Mississippi is that the closed bridges would need to be repaired and federal funding for that could be years away.”

The board and county engineer are analyzing and considering options at this time.