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Emergency repairs ordered for Old U.S. 80 bridge

Problems with essential items on the Old U.S. 80 bridge has forced the Warren County Bridge Commission to declare an emergency to make repairs.

Bridge superintendent Herman Smith said bearings on two sections of the bridge and the span’s main expansion joint need to be repaired.

He said the $932,000 project will be done by OCCI of Missouri, adding construction begins Dec. 9.

One bearing, Smith said, is under the railroad side at pier 2, and the other is under the highway side at pier 5.

“They’re roller bearings, and when it’s real cold, and the bridge contracts, they are maxed out in that position and it could damage the bearings if it is done too much, too often,” Smith said, adding the problem was declared an emergency after the bridge’s inspection in March.

The bearings, he said, are supporting big portions of the bridge.

“They look like big rollers inside of it at the bottom of it, so when the bridge contracts and expands, those rollers go back and forth,” he said. “They’re big roller bearings; under the railroad side, they’re 9 inches tall. Under the highway side, they’re 7 inches tall.”

The expansion joint runs the width of the bridge and is located near pier 4. It is the main expansion joint for the whole bridge and is almost closed from 7 inches to about 1 inch, which prohibits the joint from expanding during the heat of the day.

“It’s almost touching at the top and almost at the bottom,” Smith said. “That’s for the deck, the rail and the highway, both lower and upper.”

Smith said the expansion joint was repaired in 2006. The bearings at pier 2 were redone in 2009, and the pier 5 bearings have also been redone before.

He said pier 5 has bearings under the railroad and the highway, but only the highway side needs work.

“The pier is twisting, that’s why (the work) is only needed on one side,” Smith said. The cause of the twisting, he said, is a fault under the river that is affecting the bridge and the Interstate 20 bridge. The fault, Smith said, is on the riverbank, “but it affects everything that goes out toward the center of the river.”

Although the emergency declaration was made following March’s inspection, the work was just recently approved after a lengthy process to get plans approved.

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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