Pearl River County bridges are inspected regularly

Published 11:45 pm Saturday, September 1, 2007

After the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis, Minn. earlier last month, the condition of bridges has been a major cause for concern all over the country, including Pearl River County.

Brooks Wallace of Dungan Engineering and former county engineer Larry Seal agreed to discuss the condition of bridges in the county and the process for inspection of these bridges.

Wallace said the Office of State Aid Road Construction, which is a division of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, pays for regular bridge inspections within the county. Timber bridges or bridges with timber pilings are examined yearly, while concrete bridges are inspected bi-annually. There are 12 timber bridges and 28 bridges with timber pilings remaining in the county, Wallace said.

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Once a bridge is inspected, it is assigned a sufficiency rating. If a concrete bridge is found to have a low sufficiency rating, it is automatically placed on the inspection list for the next year.

“If you have a concrete bridge that has a low sufficiency rating, rather than waiting two years, it is put on the next year’s (list) just to keep an eye on it,” Wallace said.

The only bridges that are inspected are those that are 20 feet or more in length, Wallace said.

“By definition, if a structure is less than 20 feet long, it’s not considered a bridge,” Seal said.

“If it’s a single span, 19 foot bridge or box culvert, it’s not on the county’s inventory, but over 20 feet is,” Wallace said.

Once a bridge has been assigned a sufficiency rating, it allows the engineers to come up with a priority list of which bridges need repair work or replacement. There are two ways the county can replace bridges, Wallace said.

“We can replace bridges with state aid funds, which the county gets an allotment every four years to do road and bridge work, if they’re on the state aid system. There are also federal Surface Transportation Program, or STP, funds, which can be used for bridges on federal aid secondary routes,” Wallace said.

There are approximately 10 to 12 such federal routes in the county, Wallace said, including roads such as Progress-Silver Run Road, Caesar Road, Burnt Bridge Road, and West Union Road.

Bridges that are not on state aid routes or on federal aid secondary roads are repaired using state funds from the Local System Bridge Replacement Program (LSBP), which was established approximately 12 years ago. These are state funds established through the legislature to replace county-owned bridges that are not covered by state or federal aid funds.

Wallace said since the establishment of the LSBP program, the county has replaced 14 bridges using LSBP funds totaling more that $3 million. Some of those bridges include ones on DuPont-Harts Chapel Road, Dillard Road, Ben Sones Road, Liberty Road and McNeill-McHenry Road.

“Those (bridges) are 100 percent funded. The board has to get the right of way, move utilities and perform the approach work, but other than that, no county funds are used,” Wallace said. “Typically, on an LSBP project, we’ll have the contractor build the bridge, and then the county will bring their road department out and build the road and approach coming up to it.”

There is currently a six-bridge project being designed to use LSBP funds to replace bridges on J.J. Holcomb Road, Frances Burge Road, Osborne Moody Road, Buck Stewart Road, Humphrey Road and Sam Smith Road, Wallace said. A seventh bridge on Burgetown road was originally on the list, but an emergency replacement was done on that bridge earlier this year after the bridge was deemed unsafe.

“If we find bridges that are not safe, we go ahead and close them down. We won’t wait,” said Wallace. “A certain percentage of state aid funds are ‘restricted funds’ for critical bridges. If a bridge is classified structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, then it is required that we correct those bridges before other projects.”

Wallace said the county’s inventory of bridges, along with their sufficiency ratings, can be found on the state aid website, which is

“If a bridge is required to have a posted weight limit, (the website) will say so. It also gives a list of bridges requiring critical maintenance,” Wallace said.

Wallace also said if a citizen thinks there are problems with a bridge, they need to call the county road department and notify County Road Manager Mike Mitchell. Mitchell then would inspect the bridge and notify Dungan Engineering if there is a problem with the bridge.