Part of Wisconsin might be closed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wisconsin Avenue between Bazinsky and Porters Chapel roads could be closed for a year beginning this fall if the City of Vicksburg gives the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center a permit to connect parts of its campus north and south of the city street.

ERDC would pay for and oversee construction of a bridge on Wisconsin while it builds a road below.

The road would connect ERDC’s computer center with its main campus without employees having to leave ERDC property, which can be entered only through secured gates.

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A similar bridge with an ERDC roadway beneath already exists on Porters Chapel Road, just south of the intersection with Wisconsin Avenue.

“It’s something that’s been on the books for about a year. We brought it to the attention of the previous administration and they were on board,” said Public Works Director Bubba Rainer. “The only real benefit for the city would be to help out one of our major employers; certainly we want to accommodate such a large employer any way we can.”

With an annual payroll of about $77.3 million, ERDC is one of Vicksburg’s largest employers. Approximately 1,663 people are employed by ERDC — 1,177 federal, about 400 contractors and the rest students and temporary staff. 

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen — during Mayor Paul Winfield’s first meeting on Tuesday — tabled approving the right of way permit for ERDC until a timeline on the construction and road closure can be drawn up.

The federal agency also would set a detour route on Enchanted Drive through the Enchanted Hills subdivision, Rainer said. “We need to sit down and nail it down as closely as we can,” said North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield. “We’ve been down this road before. When you inconvenience people for that long of time they start flipping the script on you.”

Rainer said city officials are scheduled to meet with ERDC representatives on Friday before the 10 a.m. board meeting and may vote on the request during the meeting. If the project is approved, Rainer said ERDC officials have estimated the road closure could start in October or November.

Wisconsin Avenue overpasses Interstate 20 and serves as a primary route into downtown Vicksburg for residents who live south of the interstate, along with Halls Ferry Road, Indiana Avenue and Warrenton Road.

“It will certainly be an inconvenience,” said Rainer, one of many who takes the Wisconsin Avenue route to work each day.

Separately, traffic has been detoured through City Park off one of Vicksburg’s main downtown thoroughfares, Washington Street, since the Clark Street bridge was closed on Jan. 23 due to concerns about the bridge’s structural integrity. Kansas City Southern is to replace the 80-year-old bridge with a roadway-topped rail tunnel, but that project has yet to get under way. Rainer has estimated the tunnel could take about a year to complete once it gets started.


Contact Steve Sanoski at