County facing bridge closures?
Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 24, 2017
County Engineer Les Dungan said the county could face bridge closures that would isolate communities if state-hired inspectors decide the structures are unstable.
The discussion came about during this week’s Pearl River County Board of Supervisor meeting in which Dungan updated the Board about several ongoing bridge replacement projects, but warned about others on the list.
Thirty-two bridges in the county have timber pilings, some also have timber caps, he said. Those are the bridges that will be under extra scrutiny by state inspectors.
In the 18 years Dungan has worked for the county, he said the Federal Highway Administration has closed a number of bridges in the state due to simlar issues.
Typically, the county is responsible for inspecting its bridges, but this year the state is hiring inspectors to look at all 3,000 bridges with timber components, Dungan said.
“My sense in what we learned in meetings on the coast is these independent state-hired inspectors are going to be looking in a more a conservative manner,” he said. “They’re going to deem some of these (timber) pilings worthless; they can carry no load. That’s going to result in the recommendation of bridge closures.”
If timber piling is determined not to be structurally sound, the inspectors will deem it worthless, thereby recommending closure of the bridge, Dungan said.
Based upon that assumption, He recommended the Board bid for a unit price for piling repair, that way, if a contractor ever needs to quickly replace a piling, the county will already have a set price.
“If they close 15 or 16 [bridges], it could isolate whole communities from being able to get out,” he said.
If the state does decide to close a bridge, crews will be ready to minimize closure time, he said.
“We don’t want to try and guess what they’re going to find, repair the pilings, and then they still close the bridge,” Dungan said.
If the county doesn’t close the bridges deemed dangerous by the inspectors, federal funds would likely be taken away, he said.
Dungan also expressed concern about state bridge replacement funds. The Local System Bridge Program has provided about $20 million in the state funding every year except for two, this being one of those years.
“I may be crying wolf; the inspectors may come and say we don’t have to close (a bridge),” Dungan said. “But that would be a miracle.”
The Board also discussed the possibility of using old railroad tank cars as culverts to replace small bridges.
Dungan said the county has a few locations where that has been done, like on McNeill Steephollow Road west of the Interstate, he said.
The Board approved a motion to advertise for unit prices for those pilings.
Meanwhile, work to replace a bridge on Hickory Grove Road is progressing. The Board approved a $312,000 bid from Magco, Inc. to replace the bridge, which was the lowest bid.
The company is currently completing bridge replacements on Springhill Road, Dungan said.
Other bridge and culvert repairs are planned for areas on McNeill Steephollow Road, West Union Road and Oak Hill Fords Creek Road, he said.