There are some who believe the state should declare an emergency, repair the Red Creek Bridge and again open Mississippi 57 to north-south traffic from the Coast.
State Transportation Commissioner Tom King issued a statement Friday that it’s best to wait and keep it closed until 2019, when a new bridge is expected to be complete right next to it.
The new bridge will be concrete and accessible to all forms of traffic — benefiting residents, businesses, commercial vehicle and freight traffic, he said. Besides, he said, it will save $500,000 to wait.
About half a million is the cost the Mississippi Department of Transportation now puts on repairs to the Red Creek Bridge that was damaged in late summer by a tractor rig hauling a track hoe.
The old truss bridge had already been put on the replacement fast track, with right of way purchased and utilities moved so a new bridge could be built. The idea was to keep it in place while the new bridge was being built.
MDOT had put the decorative old bridge up for sale, before the tractor rig damaged the trusses and dug holes in the cement span in September and took it out of commission.
Former Jackson County supervisor Tommy Brodnax spoke to the Sun Herald this week urging the state fix the bridge because closing it blocks the major north-south corridor 21 miles north of Interstate 10.
Motorists north of the bridge who want to travel south are being detoured 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 many miles of extra travel for Ingalls workers and other motorists.
The good news is that the contract for construction of the new bridge will be let for bids early, on December 19. Once a contractor is picked and work starts on the project, it’s expected to take another 12 to 18 months to finished the new bridge — leaving the highway out of commission for a total of about two years.
The cost of repairing the old bridge is high and the benefits low, MDOT said, because even repaired, it still would be restricted, and large trucks would not be able to use it.
It would take six or seven months just to fabricate the trusses that were damaged, MDOT said.
“Once repaired, the bridge would remain posted allowing only local, non-commercial traffic to legally utilize this route,” King said.
“The best use of taxpayer dollars is to put all efforts toward expediting the construction of a replacement bridge,” King said.
By proactively putting this bridge on an early plan for at-risk bridges, MDOT will be able to get a contract in place and start construction on a new bridge as soon as the permitting process is complete, he said.
For updates on active MDOT projects, visit MDOTtraffic.com.