MDOT: Bridge repair highlights importance and challenges of rural projects

MDOT: Bridge repair highlights importance and challenges of rural projects

JACKSON, MS - This is a news release from MDOT

The task of maintaining over 5,700 bridges in Mississippi is not an easy one. Whether over water, land, railroads or other roads, these bridges are an essential part of Mississippi's infrastructure. As such, they require constant maintenance and inspection to ensure their safety for the traveling public, especially in a state as rural as Mississippi.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) has a comprehensive inspection and maintenance program for the bridges across the state. Most bridges are inspected every 24 months. Bridges that are posted for load restrictions are typically inspected every 12 months. There are 191 bridges in Mississippi that have posted weight limits. Repairs on these bridges are done based on inspections by MDOT's Bridge Inspectors. If a bridge needs repair or replacement, they are prioritized based on need and traffic impact within each area of the state.

Earlier this month, MDOT crews quickly and efficiently took action on two bridges after a routine safety inspection found that the timber pilings in both needed reinforcement. Both bridges, one in Holmes County and the other in Issaquena County, were originally built in 1955.

MDOT crews temporarily closed the bridge in Holmes County so the repair could occur on an expedited timeline to be reopened to traffic. Working all available daylight hours, the crews reopened the bridge within 40 hours. This bridge is under contract for a full replacement and the repairs done by MDOT crews will allow it to remain open until that work begins.

The second bridge in Issaquena County is on the only route available to commercial traffic in the Eagle Lake area. After the inspection, this bridge was posted. On a route that is the primary access to this area from Vicksburg, repairing the bridge as quickly as possible became a priority. A contractor is currently on site to return the bridge to capacity soon.

Bridge repair or replacement does not come without its challenges. The work to increase the lifespan of Mississippi's bridges that are already decades old, some even half-a-century, requires funding. During the 2015 Legislative Session, the Mississippi Legislature approved House Bill 1630, also known as the "Gaming Bill." This bill authorizes the state revenue bonds to provide $200 million for the repair, rehabilitation, replacement, construction and reconstruction of bridges that are on MDOT's structurally deficient bridge list, and other transportation related projects.

On April 3 2015, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced $500 million will be made available for transportation projects across the country. The grant program will help local leaders to repair roads and bridges in rural areas, including some in Mississippi. Claiborne County received funds to generate economic development and improve access to safe and reliable transportation for disconnected communities.

With these kinds of funds, MDOT can respond quickly and work proficiently to repair these important lifelines that connect communities and increase accessibility across the rural counties in Mississippi.