City nears Washington bridge repairs

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 2004

[4/1/04]A 60-year-old bridge that crosses railroad lines near the Isle of Capri entrance will be the subject of a $16,000 study to determine how and when to replace the span.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Wednesday to enter into a contract with URS Engineers of Jackson for the study to look at problems with the bridge, replacement costs and alternatives to building a new bridge.

James “Bubba” Rainer, head of the city’s public works division, said the structure of the bridge on Washington at Clark Street is stable for now, but that work will be needed to keep it safe in the future.

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“We know it’s not getting any better, and we want to start looking at replacing it eventually,” Rainer said.

Steep embankments lead down from the road level to the rail tracks, and shifting soil has created problems in the past, including one period when through traffic on Washington was shut down for months.

The last state inspection of the bridge found that the center span has shifted about 1 1/2 inches to the east, causing a misalignment of the guardrails. Both approaches to the bridge had to be replaced in the past 20 years, and last year, a piece of concrete fell from under the bridge.

City engineers have not identified the cause of the shift in the bridge, but are continuing to monitor its movements. A similar shift has been noted in the U.S. 80 and Interstate 20 bridges over the Mississippi River and is the subject of a Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development study.

Rainer said the bridge could be eligible for state funding, but that first the city has to decide what to do. Other than replacing the span, the city could build a tunnel there for the railroad or move the roadway and build in a new location. Average daily traffic there is about 7,150 vehicles.

Separately, officials say they are closer to beginning work replacing the Belva Drive bridge. The bridge was closed in November after a state inspection revealed extensive damage to the supports.

Plans and specifications to replace the bridge have been prepared and officials are working on acquiring right-of-way for the project.