Historic span down with little fanfare

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 20, 2002

Riverside Construction Co. Inc. workers walk toward the steel-arch bridge over Jackson Road shortly after it was torn down this morning. At top is the bridge Wednesday.(The Vicksburg Post/Melanie Duncan)

[06/20/02]If there was drama when the old steel arch bridge in the Vicksburg National Military Park came down, it was in the slow majesty with which it fell, rather than a sudden collapse.

“It came down slowly,” said Bill Nichols, park superintendent. “They cut it so that it slipped off the footings when they pulled first on the south side and then on the north. It settled down on itself.”

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The bridge had been scheduled for destruction since late 2001 when one of the footings washed out. That made the bridge unstable.

The park was established in 1899 to preserve the battlefield where Confederate and Union forces met during the Civil War as Gen. U.S. Grant attempted to gain control of the Mississippi River to divide the Confederacy. The bridge and four similar structures were built in 1905 and used for many years. By the 1970s, four had been replaced by modern bridges, leaving the one that carried Confederate Avenue over Jackson Road. It was abandoned as a vehicle bridge when a parallel structure was completed.

After the collapsed foundation footing was discovered, National Park Service officials were faced with three options for the bridge: leave it alone, repair it or take it down. The job, contracted to T.L. Wallace Construction Co. and subcontracted to Riverside Construction of Vicksburg, was estimated to cost about $200,000. Restoration would have cost $1.2 million.

Workers began preparations for today’s pull early this week. Just before daylight today, they hooked a bulldozer to cables on one side and three, large, fully loaded dump trucks to the others.

With a roar of engines, the pull began and the bridge slowly came down and to rest on Jackson Road at 6:40 a.m.

Workers will now remove the deck paving, which is believed to contain hazardous materials and cart it off to a proper landfill. The steel will be cut into manageable pieces and recycled.

Once Riverside is finished, Warren County supervisors will be able to open Jackson Road.

The road had been closed to protect the safety of some 2,500 vehicles a day that normally use Jackson Road.