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Immediate repairs ordered for old bridge

The U.S. 80 bridge over the Mississippi River(The Vicksburg Post)

[10/16/01]Immediate repairs to the U.S. 80 Mississippi River bridge were ordered Monday, but will not result in reopening to vehicles the county-owned bridge now off limits for three years.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a request by the Vicksburg Bridge Commission to declare an emergency to start repairs to a bridge support. Pier 2, so named because it is the second from the Mississippi bank, has shifted 13 inches in the 71 years the bridge has been opened.

HNTB engineer Jack Shortess told the two boards that since repairs were made in 1997, the support has shifted an additional 5 inches to the west. That has put stress on anchors through the pier and repairs are needed immediately, he said.

Trains still use the bridge and it is the only crossing between Memphis and Baton Rouge.

“We would have to close the bridge if one of those anchor bars was to break and they are already under more strain than they were designed for,” Shortess said.

The repairs will start later this year, cost about $220,000 and take about two months. The bridge supported by Pier 2 will be jacked up and the rocker that sits on top of the support will be moved.

Shiloh Contractors Inc., of Clinton, which performed the 1997 adjustment, will do the work.

The project has no relation to the $2.8 million estimate to repair the bridge’s roadbed so cars and trucks could cross again.

“I would recommend that the board not spend any money on repairing the road bed until we have a more long-term solution,” Shortess said.

He said that one possible long-term fix would be to essentially build a new pier around the existing one with supports going deeper into the ground. The estimated cost of that work is $2 million to $3 million.

But, Shortess said, that could also turn out to be only a temporary fix until the cause of the pier movement can be determined.

The commission responsible for the bridge has been working with its engineering firm HNTB of Baton Rouge and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to find out why Pier 2 has been moving, but have found no answers in nearly two years of studies. Three months ago, commission members were told that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is also looking into a similar problem with a pier on the Interstate 20 river bridge.

LDOT has begun a $2 million study to determine why a pier on the 28-year-old I-20 bridge nearly aligned with Pier 2 of the county’s bridge has also moved about 6 inches. Louisiana officials said they will share their findings with the local bridge commission.

“They’re spending $2 million on their study so there is no reason for us to spend more money until that study is done,” said District 1 Supervisor David McDonald.

The cost of any repairs to the bridge would be paid out of commission funds of about $4.8 million. The source of most of that money is Kansas City Southern, which pays a per-car toll for trains crossing the bridge.

After World War II, Warren County bought the bridge from the private corporation that built and operated it. Two years ago, supervisors allowed a non-binding referendum in which voters showed a preference for reopening the roadbed over other alternatives which included selling the bridge and converting it into a pedestrian park.

In other business, supervisors:

Approved payments to ABMB Engineers Inc. for engineering services for $9,261.39 on the water and sewer project and $35,979. 26 for road work. Both payments will come from a community development block grant.

Approved the final documents on the replacement of a bridge on Redwood Road that includes $9,000 in liquidated damages. At the same time, they approved a recommendation by County Engineer John McKee to pave a driveway damaged in the project and bill the cost to the contractor.

Approved the purchase of two pickups, a dump truck chassis and a dump body for the Highway Department and two cars for the Warren County Sheriff’s Department. All purchases will be on state contract.

Supervisors will meet again at 10 a.m., Oct. 22 at the Warren County Courthouse.