County bridges getting updated

Published 10:11 pm Saturday, August 9, 2008

Research after the collapse of the I-35 W bridge in Minneapolis has prompted the Mississippi Department of Transpiration to announce there could be problems funding state bridge repair and maintenance.

MDOT suggests in a press release that addressing the funding problem would involve public support of additional revenue options such as tolls, tax increases and bonds or private investments.

The release states that of the 16,575 bridges in Mississippi 34 percent are maintained by MDOT, the other 66 percent are owned by counties and cites. Eight percent of those bridges are rated as functionally obsolete while 17 percent are rated structurally deficient. Functionally obsolete bridges are too narrow, lack shoulders or have too low of a clearance. Bridges that need some repairs, but are still safe, are deemed structurally deficient. It would cost about $1 billion to fix all bridges in these two categories.

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Pearl River County is working to repair or fix the bridges in those two categories under their umbrella of maintenance. County Engineer Les Dungan said about 12 such bridges have or will have repair work conducted on them by 2009. That work will either be funded by state aid project grants or by county funds. Recently state aid funds paid for the bridge replacement on Asa McQueen Road, and repair work on Oak Hill Road, Holden Road and West Union Road.

County funds will pay to address issues on bridges located on Beech Road in Poplarville and Old Kiln Road in the south end of the county. Work on these bridges will involve replacing the aging wood pilings with concrete pilings, Dungan said. The existing concrete slabs that make up the bridges will be reused to save on expenses.

The narrow bridge on Pine Grove Road is also on the list, but this work will replace the entire bridge to widen it, Dungan said. Design work for the bridge is completed and the funding is in place. That work is waiting on right of way acquisition. While the work is expected to be complete by 2009, Dungan said he hopes to have the contract in place by the end of this year.

Bridges are built to last about 50 years, but the average age of bridges in America is 43 years. About one in five of those bridges are more than 50 years old, the press release states.

Bridges most in the need of work are fixed first. Typically five such bridges are replaced every year in Pearl River County, Dungan said.

“You see at this rate you never will get them replaced,” Dungan said.

At the current rate Dungan estimates it would take about 20 to 25 years to replace all of the 165 county-maintained bridges.

The small nature of the bridges on this year’s list enabled more than five to be repaired. Small bridges are just as important to repair because if a small bridge fails and causes injuries the tragedy is just as significant as if a large bridge had failed, Dungan said.