AG opinion does not grant legal authority to allow pedestrians/bicyclists on bridge

Published 6:17 pm Saturday, September 1, 2018

To the editor:

A recent report in the Vicksburg Post regarding an Attorney General’s opinion received by the Vicksburg Bridge Commission and Warren County provided incomplete and misleading information with respect to opening the vehicular portion of the old U.S. Highway 80 Mississippi River Bridge to pedestrians and cyclists. The report and its headline suggested that the old traffic deck next to the operating railroad deck of the old Mississippi River Bridge can, by virtue of the AG opinion, now be opened for public access. This is an incomplete and, unfortunately, misleading explanation of the AG opinion. 

The AG was only authorized to issue an opinion about the Bridge Commission’s authority under Mississippi law, and the opinion abided by that important limitation. Page 2 of the opinion expressly states that the AG would not opine “as to the Commission’s rights, and/or limitations thereof, under the Railroad Lease” or as to the effect of Louisiana or federal law.

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This means that while the AG found statutory authority for the proposed action, it clearly did not issue an opinion about the lease agreement that governs the relationship between KCS and Warren County or the laws from other jurisdictions. KCS has consistently pointed out that the proposed action would violate the lease.

The primary reason the lease prohibits the proposed action — and the reason KCS is opposed to open pedestrian/bicyclist access right next to the operating railroad — are the significant safety and security hazards that would present, which I explained more thoroughly in my May 13 Letter to the Editor.

The old traffic deck proposed for conversion sits immediately adjacent to the freight train bridge deck, where 15 to 18 trains per day operate. In the event of derailment, barge hits from below, and other accidents, which can and do occur, pedestrians or cyclists on the bridge would be in imminent danger of serious harm and death.

Given this serious matter of public safety and rail security, KCS remains steadfast in its opposition to the proposed action. The AG opinion did not address KCS’s position or the limitations imposed on the County and Commission by the lease and certainly did nothing to change them.

Kayden B. Howard

Vice President Health, Safety & Environmental

Kansas City Southern