Emergency on Washington|Internet, phone services back on as work on collapse set to begin

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Phone and Internet service was restored to an undetermined number of AT&T customers in Vicksburg this morning, while city officials prepared to declare an emergency and begin shoring up an unstable gorge at Washington and Clark streets that caused the outages last week.

“We’re going to meet with contractors (today) to try to get some quotes or proposals on making that repair under an emergency declaration,” said Director of Public Works Bubba Rainer.

A lasting solution, in the works for years, is a $5 million tunnel to maintain rail traffic through the gap and add retaining walls or other structures to stop the erosion that has been moving closer to the main north-south artery at an increasing pace.

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An underground AT&T conduit snapped six days ago after rains caused additional land to slide into the gully near the closed bridge that crosses the rail tracks below. AT&T crews were on site until midnight Monday restoring service with a temporary fix, said AT&T spokeswoman Sue Sperry.

“Hopefully everything will hold in place until a permanent solution can be worked on,” said Sperry, who did not have figures on the number of customers affected by the outages. 

Funding to stabilize the slope was in a 2006 bond issue totaling $16.9 million. The Federal Railroad Administration is to reimburse the city $4 million of the cost. Kansas City Southern is overseeing the project and Rainer said the company is not moving as quickly as the city had hoped.

“We’ll be meeting with the three contractors who put in bids with KCS on the whole package and look at pulling this part of the work out of that contract and getting it started,” he said.

Rainer said he did not think the slope had been compromised any further since the slide on Wednesday, which left about 2 feet of green space between Washington Street and the gully. Much of the erosion has been caused by a storm drain pipe that drains into the gulch. Rainer said stabilizing the slope will include filling up the massive hole with dirt and repositioning the drain.

“I don’t know how long it will take; we’ll discuss that (today) and it could be a part of any proposals they have,” Rainer said. “We’re looking at a permanent solution.” 

The bridge, built in 1929 and about 100 yards long, has been closed to traffic since Jan. 23. City officials have estimated the road could be closed for up to 18 months while the tunnel is constructed. Traffic on the main north-south city corridor is being detoured through City Park.


Contact Steve Sanoski at ssanoski@vicksburgpost.com.