New crossing coming on U.S. 61 at Redwood|[9/25/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 25, 2006

Days are numbered for the U.S. 61 North bridge across the Yazoo River.

Anticipated for years, crews from Key Constructors Inc. of Madison began work last week on two new two-lane bridges that will replace the tall, scenic – and rusting – old bridge.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation is spending $32.7 million on the project about 10 miles north of Vicksburg and expects to see the first vehicles cross the first two lanes by late 2008, Central District Commissioner Dick Hall said.

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At that time, the old bridge will be closed and removed, assistant district engineer Carl Middleton said. The additional two lanes will be built in its footprint.

Driving widths on the new bridge call for the same 12-foot lanes to match highway standards, Middleton said. The deck-to-deck width of the new bridges will be 40 feet, 14 feet wider than the current span, built in 1950.

One problem that will be cured is clearance. Logs trucks and those carrying farm equipment or cranes have been using the existing bridge with caution or using lengthy alternate routes. The bridge’s metal superstructure shows damage from too-tall loads trying to cross.

The bridge replacement project is part of MDOT’s larger &#8220Vision 21” program, part of which calls for U.S. 61 North to be four-laned &#8220when traffic levels warrant it,” Middleton said.

&#8220That is some time into the future,” he said.

Longtime residents along the west side of the Yazoo on Mississippi 465 welcomed the sight of crews clearing land to access the new bridge site.

&#8220We’d been hearing about it for many years, so it’s about time,” said Linda Folden, relaxing on her front porch with her husband, Terry.

The Foldens have lived in Redwood for 26 years, she said, long enough to witness many a harrowing traffic scene. Folden said she &#8220saw her life flash in front of her eyes two months ago,” when a southbound motorist attempted to pass six vehicles while approaching the bridge. Four of them were 18-wheelers, she said.

&#8220We need a four-lane bridge for idiots like that,” she said.

Cotton farmers such as Butch Burroughs welcome the added clearance.

&#8220It’ll be a big help to farmers because we always have to watch it with the cotton pickers,” he said.

The transformation of the bridge across the Yazoo River is one of several highway projects in Warren County.