Warren County Supervisors to pursue federal funds for Hall’s Ferry bridge over Hatcher Bayou
Published 3:50 pm Friday, May 6, 2022
During Monday’s meeting of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, the board discussed adding the Hall’s Ferry Road bridge over Hatcher Bayou to its application for funding through the MDOT Emergency Road and Bridge Repair Fund.
The bridge, County Engineer Keith O’Keefe said, has scouring around its pilings (where excessive sediment had washed away) and is in need of repair. Originally, the board of supervisors planned to pay for the cost of the bridge with county funds, but the authorization of an additional $100 million from the state department of transportation provided a different option to fund the project.
However, O’Keefe explained, there is a catch — through the ERBRF program, part of Local Public Agency projects funded by the Federal Highway Administration —the timeline for the project would be extended by a year. Work was originally scheduled to begin this summer.
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“This program is administered through the LPA program and as such, it doesn’t move quite as fast,” O’Keefe said. “The path that we’re on right now for the Hall’s Ferry Road bridge project is to advertise that bridge for construction this summer for repairs. Not a complete replacement, just repairs.”
O’Keefe said one of the things he is focused on as the county engineer is not having to pull the deck off the bridge and close it to traffic. Currently, the Hatcher Bayou Bridge on Hall’s Ferry Road has a very strict posting that limits the weight of vehicles that can travel over it.
District 3 Supervisor Shawn Jackson said she believed the opportunity to fund the project at minimal expense to the county was worth the extended timeline.
“I believe, given the dire straits of the Hall’s Ferry bridge and the cost of it, it makes sense to submit it in this list and use these additional funds because we had not budgeted for Hall’s Ferry,” Jackson said. “It could be a good thing to pay for those repairs.”
O’Keefe agreed, and said what the county proposed is going to be a long-term improvement with the goal of removing the posting altogether and allowing 80,000-pound loads on the bridge.
However, he said, the Emergency Road and Bridge Fund process is highly competitive.
“This is a very competitive process for the $100 million. They normally get several times that amount in requests for funding,” he said. “MDOT looks at several criteria and they rank the bridges. Based on the schedule they put out, they’re going to make selections in June.”
Engineering contracts would be approved by September, and then the LPA process would begin.
District 4 Supervisor Jeff Holland provided clarification of the issue, explaining no work could be done on the bridge, once it is selected, until the LPA process is complete.
“If we were to get funds from this program for the Hall’s Ferry bridge, we could not begin any modification using those funds until receipt, which could be up to a year from now,” Holland said. “We could not begin the process, pay for it ourselves and be paid back.”
O’Keefe stated again that his goal on Monday was to present options to the board, adding there would be further opportunities for discussion during the board’s May 9 working session.
“I’m just trying to give you all a realistic picture because you all have to make the decisions on this,” he said. “It’s got a posting on it, 11, 13 and 16 tons. A bus can pass over it, but heavy trucks cannot pass over it the way it’s posted right now. It would remain that way for at least another year.”
The board voted to include the bridge as one of eight the county is seeking ERBRF funding for, citing the use of federal funds as a cost-saving benefit for the county.
“I think with the cost factor, and if we can make sure we can deal with the traffic and the loads coming across, it’s worth throwing it through the LPA process,” Jackson said. “That’s what this funding is for, and we do have some serious things on the table already to finance.”