Holiday traffic, painting blamed for backup

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 2, 2002

Traffic backs up in westbound lane of Interstate 20 Sunday night near the Halls Ferry Road overpass. (The Vicksburg Post/C. Todd Sherman)

[12/02/02]Cars and trucks on Interstate 20 backed up Sunday for the third time in a week, and officials said Mississippi River Bridge construction mixed with heavy volume was to blame.

“The majority was due to the holiday traffic,” said Marshall Hill, project engineer for the Louisiana Department of Transportation. “Once traffic gets backed up, it seems like it takes forever to get it flowing again.”

One of the eastbound lanes has been closed for a year and a half as crews of a Texas firm move about the 29-year-old structure giving it its first paint job.

In addition to the construction on the eastbound side of the bridge, westbound travelers face delays because of roadwork near the foot of the span, said Tim Williams of the Delta Police Department. That work, he said, limits traffic to one lane for about a mile from the bridge to the Louisiana weigh station.

This causes traffic to bottleneck when vehicles approach the construction area, Williams said. And Sunday, the heaviest travel day of the year, the bottlenecks turned all four Interstate lanes into parking lots.

Every day, westbound lanes are closed to one lane between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. because of the traffic backup into Vicksburg, Hill said. The good news is that he expects that project should be finished in a month.

Traffic is closed to one lane in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 20 permanently until the painting of the bridge is finished, Hill said. It’s a three-year contract, but officials of Texas Bridge have said they plan to finish in two.

Accidents on the bridge last week caused traffic to be stopped for hours.

A five-car wreck in the eastbound lanes Wednesday caused traffic traveling east and west to be slowed, and at some points, stopped. Traffic was also stopped on Nov. 24 due to a four-car wreck on the bridge. No injuries were reported in the wrecks.

Hill said the closure of the lanes has helped slow traffic and resulted in fewer wrecks on the bridge.

“The only thing we can do is try to speed up construction and get out of the roadway,” Hill said.

There is a two-lane parallel bridge across the river. Although trains use it, the older bridge, owned by Warren County, has a deteriorated concrete roadbed and lanes deemed too narrow for modern traffic.