Claiborne spending $3.5 million to replace wooden bridge

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 29, 2004

[9/29/04]PORT GIBSON January storms? April showers? Bring them on.

A federal grant has allowed building of a $3.5 million bridge on Willows Road across Bayou Pierre.

The project features two spans to replace an old wood-decked bridge. During the past few years, that bridge was partially closed to traffic, forcing motorists in rural north Claiborne County to drive a 20-mile alternate route.

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“It was in bad shape,” said foreman Beau Graves.

One bridge will span 1,630 feet, and the other is 320 feet. Both have two lanes. Construction began in November, and Graves expects the job to be finished by Christmas.

“It’s going good,” Graves said. “I’m told we’re ahead of schedule.”

The bridge replacement is a part of a program mandated by the state, said Claiborne County Engineer Jeff Knight. While the area is sparsely populated, it’s also home to the $3 billion Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, the largest power plant in Mississippi.

“We’re striving to be one of the first counties in the state to get rid of all of our deficient bridges,” he said. The Willows Road bridge is one of the last bridges to not meet the new standard in the county.

The previous bridge was a danger every time there was a significant rainfall, Graves said. Heavy cars and trucks were not allowed across. Even the weight of regular cars caused the wooden joints to creak.

The area surrounding the bridge is mostly farmland, with several hunting clubs scattered about.

Knight said the bulk of the bridge’s expense comes from building over water.

“The cost of the bridge had to do with the hydraulic design to get enough opening for the Bayou Pierre to cross beneath the bridge,” Knight said.

Key Construction Co. of Madison is building the bridge, and Williford, Gearhart and Knight is the engineering firm.