A tree fell on the bridge over Dry Creek on Highway 184, closing down the bridge and taking out power lines.jpg

Bridges that have been ordered closed:

Jones County

• Old Highway 15 over Tiger Branch

• Old Highway 15 over Gator Branch

• Ovett-Petal Road over Lancaster Branch

• Monarch Road over Glade Creek

• Monarch Road over Dry Creek

• Old Highway 11 over Falls Branch

• Louie Bullock Road over Nichols Branch

• G. Morgan Road over Little Mill Creek

• Freedom Road over Little Mill Creek

• Ovett-Moselle Road over Tallahala Creek

• Tuckers Crossing Road over Tallahoma Creek

Wayne County

• Hollis Creek Road over Hollis Creek

• Chcora-Greene County Road over Henry Creek

• Clara Road over Mile Creek

• Chapparal-Hiwannee Road over Dicks Creek

• Dyess Bridge Road over Bucatunna Creek

• Denham Progress Road over Bucatunna Creek

The Mississippi Department of Transportation was directed Wednesday to begin immediately closing at least 34 bridges — 11 of which are in Jones County, six in Wayne County — under the authority of Gov. Phil Bryant’s emergency bridge-closure proclamation from last April.

“If these bridges remain open, it will not only present a safety hazard to the traveling public but will also threaten $530 million in federal funding, which is about 50 percent of MDOT’s overall budget,” said Melinda McGrath, P.E., MDOT Executive Director.

The Office of State Aid Road Construction discovered 34 deficient bridges were still open to traffic, according to a press release from MDOT. State Aid ordered counties to close some of the listed bridges by September 2018. State Aid is a separate state agency that enforces federal guidelines for county and city-owned roads and bridges and does not report to the Transportation Commission or MDOT.

 The current closures are a continuation of a 2017 report from federal inspectors who determined many bridges in the state were deficient. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration worked with State Aid and MDOT to schedule repairs or closures. 

Jones County Engineer Ronnie Clark was critical of the inspection process, which was taken over by federal inspectors at additional expense to counties last year.

County engineers used to have the task of inspecting county bridges, he explained, but Federal Highway Administration officials stepped in and called for outsider agencies to handle inspections. They believed that county engineers were “intimidated” by the boards of supervisors that they served, so they would be reluctant to deem a bridge dangerous and demand that it be shut down, Clark said. Almost two dozen Jones County bridges were ordered closed last March, and some have since been repaired. 

 Last April, FHWA notified State Aid that many of the most dangerous bridges were not in compliance with federal bridge guidelines. FHWA warned that if the bridges were not immediately closed, Mississippi would be in danger of losing federal funds. In response, Bryant directed MDOT and the Department of Public Safety to immediately close more than 100 non-compliant bridges.

 The closures led to a Special Legislative Session and the creation of the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2018. Under MIMA, the Emergency Road and Bridge Repair Fund was created. It authorized issuance of up to $250 million in bonds to repair public roads and bridges in the state.

 Earlier this year, the Mississippi Transportation Commission allocated the MIMA emergency funding for projects replacing or repairing 200 bridges across the state, including 99 that are currently closed and another 91 that have posted weight restrictions.

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