Court won’t force city to fix Fairground bridge

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 18, 2003

[06/18/03] The City of Vicksburg does not have to maintain the Fairground Street bridge over the old railroad yard and doesn’t have to make the railroad fix the span either, the Mississippi Court of Appeals ruled.

The city had been sued by owners of property adjacent to the 108-year-old iron bridge at the foot of Fairground Street after that portion of the street was closed due to deterioration of the bridge. In the suit, property owners Joe Strickland and James Hobson Jr., asked the courts to compel the city to enforce an 1895 agreement with the railroad company that owns tracks under the bridge. In that 108-year-old contract, the railroad agreed to maintain the overpass.

Nearly three years after Strickland and Hobson filed their complaint, the Appeals Court upheld the decision of the Warren County Circuit Court in favor of the city.

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“The decision to seek full compliance or to simply forego the enforcement of contract rights that might arguably exist is one that necessarily involves substantial exercise of discretion on the part of the governing body,” the decision says.

Fairground Street extends from Washington Street through the Garden District to Levee Street, but was cut off by the laying of tracks in the early 1800s. The owner of the tracks at that time, the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad built the bridge as part of a deal with the city that allowed the company right-of-way through Vicksburg.

In an agreement between the city and Y&MV, the railroad company owning the tracks is responsible for maintaining the bridge over the rail yards.

Although historic, the bridge has been closed to traffic for safety reasons since 1995, essentially making Fairground a dead-end street. While there are other routes to the industrial area west of the bridge, Strickland and Hobson said the city’s failure to enforce the agreement has made their property less valuable.

Kansas City Southern Railway now owns the tracks and the bridge and was named co-defendant in the case.

The Fairground Street bridge is listed in tour guides and on the National Register of Historic Places as possibly the oldest bridge in the state.