The historic Red Creek Bridge north of Vancleave will remain closed while state engineers inspect it following a crash Tuesday that damaged its steel trusses and left a hole in the bridge deck.
Significant damages to the bridge, about a mile south of the George County line, mean commuters who use the bridge on Mississippi 57 will have to go miles out of their way on other state roads for the time being.
“It’s a significant detour but there’s not much we can do about it right now,” said Kelly Castleberry, Mississippi Department of Transportation engineer for southeast Mississippi.
Motorists north of the bridge who want to travel south are being detoured on state roads — north on 57 to Mississippi 26 in Benndale, east to Mississippi 63 in Lucedale and south on 63 to Interstate 10 or U.S. 90. The detour could mean up to 50 miles of extra travel for some motorists.
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Electronic sign boards put in place later Tuesday warn motorists of detours. Earlier Tuesday, MDOT issued an alert of a temporary closure on 57 from Vestry to Berry roads until 6 p.m. People who live south of the bridge can still get home. They just can’t use the bridge.
“It is a sad day,” Castleberry said of the bridge closure.
The bridge, built in 1959, is known for its steel trusses, which give it a distinctive look in bridgework from the ’40s and ’50s.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol was notified of Tuesday’s crash about 8 a.m., said MHP spokesman Chase Elkins.
State troopers found a track hoe was being pulled by a 1978 GMC Brigadier that crashed into the bridge, he said. The track hoe was pulled off its trailer and crashed on its side, blocking northbound and southbound lanes.
The driver was not injured.
MDOT sent a crew to the scene and they began placing detour signs on area highways. MDOT sent out a media alert saying 57 from Vestry Road to Berry Road would be closed until 6 p.m.
People who live in the area can still get home as long as they don’t have to cross the bridge.
“Over the next day or two, we will be inspecting the bridge to see what it will take and what it will cost to repair it,” Castleberry said.
“We do have a contract coming up to place a new structure at Red Creek at a new location.”
The bridge has been deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
MDOT had recently put the bridge up for sale and offered to help the new owner move it by paying what it would cost to tear down the bridge.
But there’s a catch: The new owner would be required to preserve the bridge and maintain its structural elements based on standards set by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.