County against state idea to list 80 bridge as historic

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 24, 2004

[8/24/04]Warren County officials said Monday they will protest a proposal by the state to add the U.S. 80 Bridge over the Big Black River to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has suggested nominating the bridge between Vicksburg and Edwards, but county supervisors said they fear it would make maintenance of the bridge near impossible.

Under state law, any repairs to a listed structure must first be approved by Archives and History. That can be a long and tedious process. Supervisors said that because U.S. 80 is sometimes used as an alternate route to Interstate 20, maintaining the bridge cannot be complicated by the historic listing.

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“We don’t want that to happen if at all possible,” said District 1 Supervisor David McDonald.

Richard Cawthon, chief architectural historian and national register program supervisor for Archives and History, said the U.S. 80 Bridge just south of I-20 was built in 1929 and is one of the few remaining examples of a Parker through truss structure.

A Parker through truss refers to the design of the bridge structure above the roadway through which vehicles pass. Other examples of the design include the Fairground Street bridge over the Kansas City Southern rail yard, which was added to the register in 1988, and the U.S. 80 Mississippi River Bridge.

“It’s also significant because of its connection with the original construction of Highway 80,” Cawthon said.

He said the bridge was built when U.S. 80 was one of the first major paved roadways crossing the nation. A second, more ornate, bridge to the south of the highway is owned by Kansas City Southern Railway and carries trains only. It also is on the national register, Cawthon said.

Supervisors also voted to oppose the designation and to contact Hinds County supervisors to find out their position. The maintenance of the bridge is funded by the two counties.

Hinds County board president Douglas Anderson said supervisors there likely will also oppose the historic designation for the same reasons.

“I do have some concerns related to this,” Anderson said. “It would possibly hinder some repairs you would normally do.”

The Mississippi Historic Preservation Professional Review Board will consider recommendations at 1 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Archives and History building in Jackson.