Interstate 20 bridge fully reopens after wreck and damaged sign support structure removed
Published 12:15 am Monday, September 21, 2020
For travelers along Interstate 20 — some trapped on either side of the Mississippi River bridge Sunday — it was a very long day.
Just before midnight, officials with the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Vicksburg Police Department announced that all lanes of the bridge had been reopened following an 18-wheeler wreck Sunday morning and more than 12 hours of cleanup.
At around 10:30 a.m., an 18-wheeler transport carrying vehicles overturned as it headed eastbound on the bridge. The accident happened at the foot of the bridge near the Washington Street overpass. In the accident, the 18-wheeler collided with an unoccupied work truck parked on the side of the interstate and damaged the large support structure that holds directional signs located above the interstate.
The driver of the 18-wheeler received minor injuries and was treated and released from Merit Health River Region.
While the cause of the accident remains under investigation, the results of the wreck were severe, particularly for the normal operations of the busy interstate thoroughfare.
Louisiana officials closed all eastbound traffic a few hours after the accident, while the westbound lanes remained open. But as it became clear the damaged support structure for the signs had to be removed, MDOT officials announced the closure of the westbound lanes at around 3:45 p.m.
The Vicksburg Police Department, Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Mississippi Highway Patrol supported the closures as crews worked to take down the structure, cut it into pieces and remove it from the area. But before that work could begin, the 18-wheeler had to be removed and fuel spilled during the accident had to be cleaned up.
While this was all going on, traffic on both sides of the bridge backed up for miles. At one point, the westbound traffic had backed up more than nine miles, nearly reaching Bovina.
The I-20 bridge at Vicksburg is the only bridge crossing of the Mississippi River for 150 miles between Greenville and Natchez. Detouring either north or south, if drivers could even reach the appropriate exits off of I-20, would take several hours.
“This has already put us back three hours,” Nicole Jackson, who was traveling to Dallas with Sunshine Ramirez, told The Post in an interview at around 6 p.m. “We were supposed to get home at 8:51 p.m., now we are looking at after 1 a.m. or later.”
Mackenzie Williams, who is from Alabama, was supposed to meet a friend from Louisiana in Vicksburg, but that friend was stuck on the other side of the river.
“He is trapped on the other side of the bridge and I’m on this side,” Williams said. “It looks like we will have to meet another weekend.”
Thomas Casey, a Ponchatoula, La., native who attends Louisiana Tech, was just trying to get back to school. The 90-minute trip from Vicksburg to Ruston was going to take much longer than expected.
“I’ve been here for hours,” Casey said. “I will be here until they open it back up.”
Mike Flood, with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, said the work Sunday night was simply to remove the damaged structure. A new structure and sign would have to be installed at a later date.
Vicksburg Post staff writer Terri Cowart Frazier contributed to this report.