Bridge work at Port of Vicksburg likely to create 2 1/2-year kink in traffic

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 27, 2008

Traffic in and out of the Port of Vicksburg is likely to be tied up for at least 2 1/2 years once construction begins on the bridge connecting E.W. Haining Road and North Washington Street next year, officials said.

Financed with a $10 million, Katrina-related disaster recovery grant secured by Warren County in September, the work will involve replacing the current two-lane bridge with a wider, four-lane structure capable of handling greater volumes of trucks.

Plans call for the new bridge to be built in two sections, County Engineer John McKee said, with vehicles routed onto the existing bridge while the new one is built. Once that step is done, the current bridge — the lone access to industries on E.W. Haining Road and Industrial Drive — will be dismantled and the two additional lanes will be constructed, McKee said.

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Work on the bridge itself and to the intersection is estimated to soak up about $7.3 million of the available funds, according to the project’s financial statements to date. About $238,000 of the grant has gone to design services. Locally-generated tax money would be tapped for the project only in the case of cost overruns.

Construction bids are expected to be awarded in January, which would make it the top local road and bridge project that progresses in the coming year. A study on a separate project to connect U.S. 61 North to the port is ongoing, state transportation officials have said, with no definite conclusion expected in 2009.

More than $340 million in such Community Development Block Grants was available to Mississippi counties declared federal disaster areas after the 2005 storm. Areas around the port were declared blighted by Warren County supervisors in 2007 in order to ensure the county’s eligibility.

A similar grant was secured by the county this year to address debris left behind in three drainage bayous in Vicksburg. About $3.9 million remains available for the project, with hang-ups lingering over labor costs, scope and whether supervisors keep the grant or Vicksburg officials are persuaded to administer the project.

If the county opts to keep control of the grant, a drainage control district would have to be established to oversee the 50 or so miles of winding streams. Its funding would come from property tax add-ons, similar to taxes imposed by the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners on land protected by mainline Mississippi River levees.

Thirty-nine counties and municipalities in the state were eligible for the disaster recovery funds, part of a larger $5.48 billion Katrina recovery package awarded to Mississippi.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at