Engineers’ report: Bridge can be repaired for less than $1 million

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 9, 2000

For less than $1 million, the roadway of the U.S. 80 Mississippi River bridge could be repaired for vehicular traffic, according to the latest estimates from engineers.

The Baton Rouge engineering firm HNTB estimated the cost of minimum repairs to the road deck at $746,750 not including the cost of maintenance over the next five years or repairs to the pier that has been moving.

“I don’t think we need to take any action on this until we present it to the board (of supervisors,)” said Raymond Ray, chairman of the Vicksburg Bridge Commission.

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Supervisors have asked that a representative of the commission that is responsible for the upkeep of the 70-year-old bridge be present at the next board meeting on Nov. 29 to give an update on plans to reopen the bridge to traffic.

The letter from HNTB dated Oct. 27 is in response to a request by the commission for a preliminary estimate to restore the concrete deck. Deterioration of the concrete roadway was cited as the reason for closing the span to cars and trucks in September 1998. Train crossings have not been interrupted.

Other repairs estimates for the bridge include $4 million to correct problems associated with a pier that has shifted three inches since 1997 and $6.9 million to maintain the structure over the next five years.

Funding for the bridge repairs would come out of bridge commission reserves, now about $5.5 million. That money comes from Kansas City Southern Railway, which pays per-car tolls for use of the bridge, and fees from utilities that use the bridge for transmission lines.

“We’re not exactly dragging our feet,” Ray said. “People can say anything they want and print anything they want, but the fact is the Corps is going to have to have some time.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying the problems with the pier, which is believed to be caused by shifting in the bank on the Mississippi side of the river. In February, the Corps announced the study would take at least a year.

“HNTB Corporation wishes to restate our recommendation that the issue of stabilizing the east bank of the river in the vicinity of the bridge be resolved prior to making any investments in restoring the decks for traffic use,” said project manager John Shortess.

The most recent report from the Corps indicated the pier had not moved since the study began, but repairs were made Monday by bridge employees to a railroad support on the east bank after it sank nearly one inch.

Bridge superintendent Bill Wilson said the sinking could be caused by further movement in the bank associated with the problems with the pier.

A $2 million estimate to remove the bridge and its supports was received by the commission is August. Commissioners have said they obtained the estimate for long-range planning purposes only.

The “commission has no intention of tearing down or removing the bridge,” Ray said.

The county-owned bridge has been a volatile issue in the community since 1997 commission plans to sell the structure to KCS for $5.5 million became public. Public outcry led to a non-binding referendum in which county voterssaid they wanted it reopened to traffic.