Bridge work delayed 2 more weeks

Published 12:59 pm Thursday, April 1, 2010

Vicksburg officials will have two more weeks to nail down the contract to get the bridge replacement project under way at Washington and Clark streets, Mayor Paul Winfield said Wednesday.

Kanzaa Construction of Topeka, Kan., had given the city a March 31 deadline to either sign a contract for construction of a roadway-topped rail tunnel or renegotiate its not-to-exceed $8.6 million quote set last summer.

“There are some more details the engineers have to furnish the contractors, and so they extended the deadline by two weeks,” Winfield said. “We’ve done what we need to do on our end at this point, and they just need to get this done.”

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At Winfield’s urging, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted last week to reallocate roughly $3.7 million in bond funds to the bridge replacement project. The city has been scrambling to fill the funding shortfall since the closure of the 80-year-old bridge along the main north-south corridor through town was closed in January 2009.

The largest chunk of bond funds, $2.2 million, was to go toward finishing softball fields at a sports complex under construction on Fisher Ferry Road. Another $1.5 million was dedicated to paving projects, primarily in the North Ward.

The bond issue, approved in 2006, already had $5 million tabbed for the project.

City officials have formally requested a $4 million federal earmark from local delegates and are expecting a Federal Railroad Administration reimbursement of $1 million per year for four years after the tunnel is completed.

If those expectations are met, the net local cost will be about $600,000 and the funds for the sports fields and paving projects will be replenished. Winfield said the city should know by June about a federal earmark.

The mayor said he is confident the city will reach a deal with Kanzaa within the next two weeks.

“It might even happen sometime next week,” he said. “And if it does, then within 10 days of confirmation they’ll be on the ground.”

The first phase of the bridge replacement will include the creation of a new city street running parallel to the current DiamondJacks Casino entrance off Washington Street, just south of the derelict bridge. The casino entrance will be widened into three lanes, two for city traffic and one for casino patrons. The street will connect with Lee Street. Actual tunnel construction will be included in phase two of the work, which will likely start this summer if the contract is signed soon, Winfield has said. The entire project is expected to take about a year to complete.