Old bridge to be insured as long as no vehicles on it

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 13, 2002

[06/13/02]For the first time in years, the U.S. 80 Mississippi River bridge will be insured under Warren County’s liability policy, provided the span to Louisiana remains closed to vehicular traffic.

The Vicksburg Bridge Commission took no official action Monday on the report presented by Susan Loflin of Vicksburg Insurance, the company that provides coverage for the county. Previously, the 72-year-old bridge had been excluded from that policy, but was added at no additional cost, Loflin said.

“Now, if a piece should fall off and hurt someone, you’re covered,” Loflin told the members of the commission.

The bridge, which has been closed since 1998 because of deterioration to the roadbed, had not been covered under the county’s liability insurance because of its age, condition and because part of it, although owned by Warren County, is in Louisiana.

Under Mississippi law, the liability of government agencies is limited, generally to the amount of insurance coverage. But, Louisiana has no such law and half of the bridge is in that state.

“We’re just happy and pleased with Mrs. Loflin’s effort to get this done,” said Richard George, president of the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

Under the new policy, the bridge is covered for up to $2 million in either state. Previously, the bridge commission has been self-insured by a trust fund now at $219,000.

Winky Freeman, chairman of the bridge commission, said there are no plans for that fund.

“When and if we reopen the bridge, we will be dropped off that insurance,” Freeman said.

In 1999, Warren County residents voted in a non-binding referendum for the bridge to be reopened to traffic. That was followed by a vote of supervisors to repair and reopen the roadway, but no steps to accomplishing that have been taken pending a series of inspections and reports.

Trains use the bridge as the only rail crossing between Memphis and Baton Rouge.