Trucks detoured as emergency declared

Published 11:45 am Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An emergency has been declared and an engineer has been hired for the city to begin the process of testing and repairing a section of a Washington Street retaining wall just south of the bridge that reopened two weeks ago.

More immediately, heavy traffic was being detoured this morning from the area to U.S. 61 North and North Washington Street. City officials said the wall problem is not connected with the bridge, which was reopened Feb. 13 after three years of construction.

Meeting Tuesday afternoon, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen declared a 30-day emergency and hired IMS Engineers of Jackson.

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The declaration allows the board to bypass the state’s bid laws to get quotes and hire a contractor, city attorney Lee Thames said.

“It expedites the process,” he said. “Once we find out what is wrong, we can go out and hire a contractor and get the work done.”

The vote was 2-1 to hire IMS, with South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman opposing the move.

“I think it’s too early,” he said. “I wanted our engineers to recommend someone, not the board.”

Mayor Paul Winfield, who recommended IMS, said the company will do soil tests at the site of the break and advise the city on the steps to repair it. He said Washington Street’s roadbed south of the bridge also will be tested.

“We will also have to do some road work,” he said. “We may have to replace four or five pallets. The street department poured asphalt in the cracks in the pavement Monday.”

Interim public works director Garnet Van Norman said Washington Street was paved by pouring 10- by 20-foot concrete sections, some of which might have to be replaced, depending on the damage to the road.

The board’s action comes after city workers repairing a waterline leak near the retaining wall late Monday morning reported the wall had shifted..

“The crew repairing the leak apparently saw the wall move as heavy trucks went by,” Van Norman said. “There is a gap between the wall and the slope. The wall was built either in 1929, when the bridge was built, or in the early 1930s. It appears to be moving west.”

Traffic on Washington Street from the former Lee Street connector road south to South Frontage Road was reduced to one lane Monday, but was back to two lanes Tuesday afternoon.

All vehicles weighing more than 26,001 pounds, including tractor-trailer rigs, log trucks, school buses and large emergency vehicles, are being detoured, the city announced this morning.

Winfield said he called IMS soon after surveying the damage with North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield. He said several IMS representatives went to the site and then met with him at his office to review the problem and make recommendations.

IMS has a $3.3 million contract with the city to complete the engineering for an emergency city water main.

Plans for the second main came in 2010 after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers paid $1.36 million to move a main water supply line after the soil under it collapsed near the site of the Corps Interpretive Center construction on Washington Street just north of the MV Mississippi IV, threatening the 36-inch water line.

Vicksburg received a $3 million grant from the Corps to build the emergency water main from the city’s water plant on Haining Road south on North Washington Street to the national cemetery west of Fort Hill, then along Fort Hill Drive to Jackson Street. The project is in the design phase.

Winfield also recommended IMS to oversee the city’s flood cleanup in the Ford Subdivision, Kings community and Cedars School areas after the 2011 spring flood, which forced residents in those areas to flee when the Mississippi River climbed to record heights in Vicksburg, cresting on May 19 at 57.1, 14.1 feet above flood stage and nine-tenths of a foot above the Great Flood of 1927.

IMS and True North Emergency Management of Fort Worth, Texas, submitted bids to oversee the cleanup, but the board voted to do the work in-house.

Built in 1929, the Washington Street bridge was closed in 2009 while Kansas City Southern Railway and Kanza Construction Co. of Topeka, Kan., worked to replace the bridge with a concrete bridge atop a railroad tunnel.

The $8.6 million project was funded with a mix of federal railroad improvement grant money and $3.7 million in bonds the city diverted from the development of a recreation park on Fisher Ferry Road and street paving.

In other action, the board approved the $11,250 monthly payment for NRoute, and the city’s cost share for the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport, totaling $4,801.

Beauman opposed the payments, saying he had problems with NRoute’s management and he believes the city needs to get out of VTR.

NRoute receives $135,000 a year from the city.