Inspections of bridge could shift

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Legal work and more technical information will be sought, but a new company appears poised to take over inspection of the old U.S. 80 bridge.

Baton Rouge-based G.E.C. won the approval of the Vicksburg Bridge Commission on Wednesday to rate the bridge’s stability for 2009 — depending on whether the same detailed, technical analysis done in the past can be duplicated.

The five-member commission based the vote on whether future bridge inspections, usually under way by this time of year and wrapped up by year’s end, will go beyond a “cursory visual inspection” outlined in the company’s current offer.

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Commissioner Tom Hill urged the panel to nail down the firm’s ability to produce an “exact structural, architectural model of the bridge” that updates information on bridge supports repaired each year and points out trouble spots on the 79-year-old span.

“It’s that simple,” Hill said before motioning to support hiring the company, amid concerns the move would keep the same human expertise in bridge inspections but lose computer modeling capability used by Kansas City-based HNTB, which has studied the bridge’s stability and provided engineering advice during emergencies since it was built in 1930.

The commission has courted G.E.C. since the company hired former HNTB senior technical adviser Rudy McLellan, a key contributor to past inspections of the bridge. A contract to hire the company as a backup option during emergencies was put to quick use after a barge struck the bridge Oct. 22, as G.E.C. was contacted to assess damage. The company has billed the commission $2,900 for its services following the incident.

Specifics on repairs to angle-iron supports under parts of the rail tracks on the Mississippi side were designed by G.E.C., as per a commission vote in October. The rail work is expected to halt rail traffic Tuesday and Thursday, Superintendent Herman Smith said.

Kansas City-based HNTB has studied the structure’s stability and provided other engineering advice since the bridge opened in 1930. Baton Rouge-based G.E.C. is the engineer of record for the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, between suburban New Orleans and communities north of the lake, and for multiple infrastructure projects in south Louisiana.

Warren County owns the bridge and supervisors appoint the commission members to operate it as a break-even business.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at