Board of Supervisors move quickly to keep bridges open
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Ten Pearl River County bridges have been approved for replacement or renovation in an effort to prevent their closure by state-contracted inspectors.
The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors approved the estimated $737,500 expense to repair 10 bridges most in need of repair.
“This is all about being prepared; we’re planning before the battle starts, and the battle’s coming,” Board Vice President Hudson Holliday said. “We have to go ahead and dig our foxhole fast.”
At eight of the 10 sites, the work will involve repairing the weakened timber pilings that support the bridge.
Pearl River County Engineer Les Dungan said repairing the piling will involve removing the deteriorated section, which is usually the above ground portion of the piling, and replacing it with new timber and surrounding the joint with a concrete collar.
Those repairs can last up to 10 years, he said.
The other two bridges will be replaced, and as such will be functional for a much longer period of time, Dungan said.
Some of the projects will utilize state and federal aid funding already made available to the county, he said. The rest will be paid for by the county due to a lack of Local System Bridge Replacement funding this year.
The project is in response to independent inspections being performed by the state. As a result of those inspections, the state ordered the immediate closure of a bridge on McNeill Steephollow Road. Instead of complying with that order, the Board approved a motion last week to replace the bridge to prevent its closure, previous coverage states.
After that order was issued, Dungan created a priority list and cost estimate for the 28 remaining timber bridges that will be inspected by the independent contractors.
Dungan estimated that 3/4 of the bridges would fail the inspection and therefore cause the state to order their closure.
However, Dungan said that of the nine independent inspectors hired by the state, there is no general consensus on the load rate for timber pilings. He said he gives the pilings more credit than the state inspectors because of his field experience.
More closure letters could be coming as soon as this week, Dungan said.
Last week, Dungan presented an initial report that showed it could cost $4 million to repair or replace the failing bridges. But, by taking a closer look, Dungan said he’s been able to reduce the cost to between $1 million and $1.5 million to immediately prevent roads from being closed during the remainder of this year.
The 10 bridges approved for repairs Monday are:
-Anchor Lake Road over Stanfield Creek
-Progress Road over Juniper Creek
-McNeill McHenry Road over Wolf River Relief
-Walkiah Bluff Road over Leslie Slough
-Hickory Grove Road over Wash Creek
-Homer Ladner Road over Branch Creek
-Sones Chapel Road over Big Branch Creek
-Oscar Smith Road and Nellie Burks Road over Long Branch Creek
-Lakeside Drive over Stanfield Creek
The Board approved bids for the pile splicing from two contractors, Pearl River Paving and Holliday Construction, for about $5,000 per support piling, Dungan said.
Work on the Progress Road and Lakeside Drive bridges will require bidding and final approval by the Board, while work on the eight pile splicings will begin immediately, Dungan said.
Despite the high-ticket price, the Board voted to approve the project, citing the consequences if the bridges were closed indefinitely.
“We know what we’re up against,” Board President Sandy Kane Smith said. “We can put our heads together about the money situation later on.”
Dungan said that if the Board didn’t move quickly, local contractors could become involved with other projects and be unavailable to make emergency repairs.
“We won’t be able to find anyone soon; if we do they’ll be inexperienced and three times the price,” he said.
Nine bridges remain on Dungan’s top priority list for replacement this year. Of those, three could be temporarily closed without significant impact to traffic. Those bridges include Ashe Road over Fords Creek, Charlie Daughdrill Road over Long Branch Creek and Harvey Burkes Road over Lotts Creek.
Four of the remaining nine structures require full rehabilitation of the bridge, not just pile splicing, according to Dungan’s assessment.