Old bridge remains a topic of discussion

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Members of the Friends of the Vicksburg Bridge met once again with the Warren County Board of Supervisors asking the board to grant a resolution encouraging the Vicksburg Bridge Commission to “study and look at opening the bridge to pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Kane Ditto and Buddy Dees, two vocal advocates for opening the 88-year-old structure to year-round use by pedestrians and bicyclists, told the supervisors during their Monday working session they would hope there would be cooperation from the Kansas City Railroad, which leases the tracks on the old bridge, but if not, the bridge should be opened without the railroad’s blessing.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Officials with KCR have publicly objected to opening the bridge to pedestrian and bicyclist usage year-round.

Dees cited a state recreational statute that allows a landowner to open up land for recreation to the public that provides exemption from liability if it is opened free of charge. He said a 2015 letter from the Mississippi Association of Supervisors indicated the premium insurance increase would be $3,000 if the bridge were opened year-round and operated the same as a county building or facility.

Ditto pointed out that the lease agreement “makes it clear the county has a right to open the bridge to pedestrians and bicyclists.”

“I think, suffice it to say, there is an avenue towards opening the bridge to pedestrian and bicycle traffic,” County Attorney Blake Teller said. “It could be legally done with or without railroad cooperation. We hope to have it. That would be the best route.”

Dees told the supervisors it is evident there is a great deal of interest in support of opening the bridge to bicyclists and pedestrians from the public and business community. Ameristar Casino and Entergy Mississippi officials have voiced their support. Ditto said Ameristar is willing to allow a parking area on a lot near what was once the Magnolia Hotel and Entergy is willing to provide grant money in updating the 1999 study that was created when officials sought to open the bridge 20 years ago to pedestrians and bicyclists.

“They think it is worthwhile to update this study and open the bridge,” Ditto said.

Dees said there is other grant money to help with retro-fitting the bridge and potential operating costs, but a resolution from the supervisors is needed first in order to seek those grants.

They also suggested some of the $1.3 million in rent the bridge commission receives each year could be used if needed to pay for any additional maintenance or necessary upgrades.

Bob Moss, one of the five Vicksburg Bridge Commissioners, balked at the idea of using bridge funds.

“The maintenance costs are going up every day,” Moss said. “We might can pay for some things, but I think in the long run the bridge is not going to be able to fund much because our operational costs are much less than our income.”

Moss said the bridge commission has a sizeable reserve fund that could be used in case something traumatic happened to the bridge.

“We have several million dollars in the bank and we want to keep it,” Moss said. “We’d like to have more millions in the bank.”

Teller suggested the supervisors meet in executive session to discuss the matter further due to the potential litigation with KCR at their June 4 regular meeting.