OUR HERITAGE: The Old Vicksburg Bridge

Published 12:53 pm Friday, February 1, 2019

The old U.S. 80 Bridge, also known as the old Vicksburg Bridge or the Old Mississippi River bridge, has been a recent topic of discussion in the past few years as some local residents and some officials would like to see the 88-year-old span opened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic to give people a different look at the Mississippi River.

The history of the bridge goes back to February 1926, when businessman Harry Bovay began talking about building a bridge across the Mississippi River. At the time, vehicle and rail traffic going from Mississippi to Tallulah crossed the river by ferry.

Bovay in 1926 was able to get legislation passed in the U.S. Congress authorizing the Vicksburg Bridge and Terminal Co. to build the bridge, which now sits north of the Interstate 20 bridge.

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According to a timetable on the bridge’s history, construction on the 15,966.9-foot span began in 1928 at a cost of $4,712,312.52, or $67,100,662.96 in today’s money. The bridge was opened to traffic in April 1930. Rail traffic began in May 1930 under a contract signed in1927 by the Vicksburg Bridge and Terminal Co. and the Illinois Central Railroad.

At the time the bridge opened, it was the only bridge crossing the Mississippi south of Memphis, Tennessee.

The Vicksburg Bridge and Terminal Co. later went bankrupt, setting off a search for a new owner, and in 1947, the Warren County Board of Supervisors approved purchasing the bridge for $7 million, or $79,115,067.26 in today’s money, using bridge revenue bonds.

In 1948, the Mississippi Legislature approved a bill establishing a five-member bridge commission to oversee the bridge, which remained open to traffic until the construction of the I-20 bridge in 1973. The bridge has been closed to all pedestrian and vehicular travel since 1998, according to the Warren County website, but is opened for special events like the annual Over the River Run and the Bricks and Spokes bicycle ride.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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