Bridge train traffic up from last year

Published 11:40 am Thursday, September 13, 2012

More trains crossing the Mississippi River on the old U.S. 80 bridge for fiscal 2011-12 meant a lower deficit for bridge commission coffers, an independent audit shows.

Through June, 300,166 rail cars crossed the bridge, up from 284,094 in 2011, according to monthly counts supplied to the commission by Kansas City Southern Railway.

Revenue for the Vicksburg Bridge Commission was $1,369,895 for the five-member board’s fiscal year, which ends in June each year. Early phases of pre-construction work to reinforce support piers and soil on the Mississippi side made up part of $1,489,328 in operating expenses for the year. The $119,433 deficit was less than a $257,732 loss shown in the audit for 2011. About $1.1 million in revenue for the year came from railway tolls, up more than $60,000 over 2011.

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In June, Georgia-based Hayward Baker was awarded a $549,440 contract to perform the work, much of which will be around pier 2, the first large pier on the Mississippi side. A 6- to 10-foot concrete wall will retain the bank while storm water will drain over rocks below the superstructure, superintendent Herman Smith said. The support structure has moved 24 to 30 inches west since the bridge was built in 1930, according to annual inspection reports.

Drafted by The Halford Firm, the audit recommended the commission hire a qualified CPA to prepare financial statements annually. Currently, reports are supplied monthly to members from the bridge superintendent. A printed response in the audit from the commission states the cost of doing that isn’t feasible and analysis shows “that it is in the best interests of the commission to carefully review the monthly financial statements and accept responsibility for their contents.”

Chairman Robert Moss said the audit’s conclusions appeared balanced. “They were more complimentary of our practices,” Moss said. “So, I feel good about it.”

A budget adopted in July for fiscal 2013 shows $1,241,000 in estimated income and $2.2 million in spending, which assumes the slope project will be completed.