Bridge out since April, irks residents

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 7, 2003

The Freetown bridge in Bovina, above, has been out of service since April storms.(Jenny Sevcik The Vicksburg Post)

[10/7/03]Residents along Freetown Road area east of a washed-out bridge over Clear Creek may be tired of detouring but they have at least seven more months to go.

Parts of the bridge near Amos Road washed out April 6 after 8.31 inches of rain fell across Warren County. Since a 20-foot section of the bridge broke loose, people have had to find another way into Vicksburg, much of it along a gravel road.

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Harold Simpson, 4403 Freetown Road, said the Warren County Board of Supervisors has dragged its feet in getting the bridge in working condition again. Compounding the problem, he said, is that he said he has warned different District 1 supervisors over the years that the bridge was in bad shape.

“All of us people out in the rural areas, I don’t think we’re very much on his mind, whoever he is,” Simpson said of supervisors representing the area over the past several years.

District 1 Supervisor David McDonald, now finishing his first term, said work is being done on the bridge, and “hopefully people will be riding across by late spring or summer.”

Warren County Engineer John McKee said the Freetown bridge project is expected to cost about $400,000. However, the project qualified to receive a federal grant to help supplement costs, and the federal red tape has come along, too. McKee said the county is waiting on the state to approve the design for the bridge. Once approved, the county can find a company to do the work.

McKee said federal emergency projects don’t have to be advertised, slicing about a month off the process.

“We hope to take quotes on it next month and get somebody to work next month,” he said.

McDonald said the Freetown Road bridge problem isn’t unique to the district. The bridge on Possum Hollow Road has also been closed, and plans are in the works to fix it, too.

McDonald said although residents can’t see work being done on the Freetown bridge, it’s happening. He said several months ago a survey team went out to the bridge, and since then most of the preparation work and paperwork has been in process.

He said the bridge is taking longer than planned, but it will be worth it once it’s done.

“We felt like with it being that old, instead of going in and replacing one section, we’d replace the whole bridge,” McDonald said.

With the bridge out, county residents living east of it have to drive farther east away from Vicksburg and then around back toward the city.

“It’s almost as close to go to Clinton now,” Simpson said.

Before the bridge split, he drove about 14 miles to Vicksburg. The alternate route adds 6 miles, with a large part of it gravel, making the going slower.

McDonald said he understands why people living in the area are upset, but asked for patience.

Walter Johnson, 292 Amos Road, said he’s disgusted at how slow the county has been to do anything about the bridge. He said it seems like people east of the bridge have been forgotten by their elected officials.

“I really hate it,” Johnson said. “I run out of gas and everything else going down that dirt road.”

Simpson said he’s had to deal with about five pocks in his windshield since he’s been regularly driving down the gravel road.

“It’s aggravating,” he said, pointing to the marks on the windshield. “They’re small, but you still don’t want them.”