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Measurements show mobile homes can’t pass

[4/22/04]Drivers for Cappaert Manufactured Housing might have been the first private vehicles to cross the U.S. 80 Mississippi River Bridge in eight years, but measurements taken this morning show there won’t be enough room.

The Vicksburg Bridge Commission voted Wednesday to give tentative approval to a request from the company to use the bridge for wide loads until work on I-20 is finished next month.

Attorney Ken Harper said the company may have to lay off employees if it cannot find a way to get new manufactured homes across the river.

Harper said the biggest problem facing the company is width limits placed on the I-20 bridge over the river during ongoing repair work. He said that about 75 percent of the manufactured homes built at the plant on U.S. 61 South are sold in Louisiana and Texas, but bridge superintendent Herman Smith said this morning that it doesn’t look like the old bridge is wide enough.

“And that’s the No. 1 thing,” Smith said. “Can you get the trailer around the toll booth? and you can’t.”

The company proposed moving 16-foot-wide and 80-foot-long modular homes across the old bridge. The bridge’s roadway is 16 feet wide, but a toll booth at the entrance to the bridge creates a sharp turn that Smith said trucks will not be able to maneuver around.

The company had offered to pay $50 per manufactured home that crosses the bridge and provide all insurance. Cappaert Manufactured Housing employs about 500 people.

“The $50 doesn’t excite me either way, but on the face of this I’ve always been in favor of this sort of thing,” said Commissioner Bob Moss. “The bridge belongs to the citizens of Warren County, and I believe we should operate the bridge in a way that best serves the people of Warren County.”

Another concern raised was the weight limit of 42,000 pounds on the bridge.

The weight of Cappaert’s largest manufactured home with tractor and trailer is 54,000 pounds, Harper said, but weight limits on larger trucks with more than two axles is greater than smaller vehicles because the weight is spread out over a greater distance.

Commission members said that if the request was approved, they would have to waive the $50 toll offered by Cappaert, but would expect the company to pay any additional costs such as extra employees needed to open gates and move barricades.