5 truckers arrested for crossing Washington bridge|[12/05/07]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Five truck drivers have been arrested this week for crossing a Washington Street bridge over rail tracks near Clark Street, where a weight limit is posted to prevent further damage to the ailing structure.

The bridge is slated for replacement as soon as state and federal officials transfer control of grant money to the Federal Railroad Administration. Kansas City Southern Railway is expected to oversee replacing the bridge with a tunnel-style underpass, to ensure minimal interference with its train schedule. About $6.75 million has been secured for the project. When work starts, through traffic will be halted for 30 to 45 days.

The weight limit on the bridge was changed to 10 tons several weeks ago. Vicksburg police have been stationed near the bridge to watch for truckers who violate the limit.

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Three trucks were stopped at about 8:45 Tuesday morning after traveling north across the bridge. The truckers were arrested.

Ignoring the weight limit incurs a charge of violating the city’s truck route, said Officer Steven Snow, and truck drivers caught crossing the bridge are taken into custody as opposed to being issued a citation. “It carries a fine just like a speeding ticket would,” he explained. “(But) they’re arrested because it’s a violation of a city ordinance, not a moving violation,” he said. Each posted a $360.50 bond.

Trucks making deliveries to businesses along Washington are supposed to arrive from the north.

Two truck drivers were also arrested Monday for the same violation, Snow said, adding that he had been assigned to watch the bridge for trucks.

Officials do not fear imminent collapse of the bridge, said public works director Bubba Rainer, but trucks need to respect that the limit was posted for a reason.

“There’s a safety factor in everything that is posted. Obviously we’re concerned about it, that’s why we post it,” he said.

Vicksburg’s October bond issue earmarks $5 million to replace the bridge, which has seen the steep slopes underneath it sloughing for years. Most of the money is to be recouped through federal funds to be paid in $1 million annual installments.