As the federal infrastructure bill continues to sit in legislation purgatory, roads and bridges across the nation remain in a vulnerable state. In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant has ordered the state to close more than 100 unsafe bridges that should have been closed in March.
On Tuesday, April 10, Gov. Bryant issued a proclamation ordering the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety to close 102 bridges that were included in a list of unsafe bridges compiled by the Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction.
In March, the two agencies developed an action plan to close all bridges that are considered unsafe per National Bridge Inspection standards. On March 19, the Federal Highway Administration discovered that many of these bridges were still open.
The governor’s office received a notice on April 5 from the U.S. Department of Transportation notifying the state that if these bridges do not close soon, there could be consequences, including losing access to federal funds. Less than a week later, Gov. Bryant ordered the closures.
Approximately 65 percent of state highway and bridge spending comes from federal funds, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.
According to the proclamation, unsafe bridges are in the counties of Amite, Carroll, Clarke, Greene, Hinds, Humphreys, Itawamba, Jasper, Jones, Lauderdale, Leake, Lincoln, Newton, Smith, Wayne and “other parts of the state of Mississippi.”
Below is a map of the locations of the unsafe bridges to be closed.
MDOT told Land Line that the department will contact the counties to verify their intentions on closing these bridges and give them the opportunity to close the bridges within 24 hours of notification. From there, MDOT will visit each bridge site for the bridges the counties will not close and determine what is needed for closure.
By Thursday, April 12, MDOT had begun the process of closing bridges on the list provided by Office of State Aid Road Construction.
“MDOT is thankful for the governor’s strong support of public safety while protecting federal transportation funds that come into the state,” MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath, P.E., said in a statement. “The state and MDOT cannot afford to lose any money for roads and bridges.”
The bridges will remain closed until they are in compliance with federal and state laws, regulations and standards.
According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s 2018 deficient bridge report, Mississippi ranked eighth for total number of deficient bridges. As a percentage of total bridges in the state, Mississippi was the 12th highest at 11.8 percent. Of the top 250 deficient bridges based on daily crossings, not a single Mississippi bridge is listed. Fortunately, none of the unsafe bridges are among the top 10 most traveled deficient bridges in Mississippi.
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