Staff and Wire Reports
Mississippi Department of Transportation crews have made temporary repairs to several Mississippi Highway 6 bridges between Batesville and Clarksdale.
MDOT has raised posted weight limits on the bridges after replacing and constructing additional shoring of numerous timber pilings which support the bridge, the Associated Press reports.
Commercial vehicles, such as empty agriculture trucks and school buses, to travel across these bridges, the AP reports.
“While this repair increases postings to at least 11 tons, it is a short-term fix allowing more agriculture and school traffic to move along Highway 6,” said Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert. “MDOT is working with the Mississippi Legislature to identify new funding possibilities to replace critical needs bridges along Highways 6, 18, 32 and 309, but the price tag for completion is approximately $110 million.”
Money for permanent repairs is unlikely to come from the 2015 legislative session, according to Sen. Willie Simmons, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Simmons, however, will seek funding to tackle some of the more serious problems among the hundreds of deficient bridges across Mississippi. Many of bridges in the worst shape are in the Delta, and 80 percent of the total are north of Interstate 20, said Simmons, a Cleveland Democrat.
Simmons will be joined in his request by the Delta Council, a longstanding organization of the region’s business and agricultural leaders.
Delta Council’s Transportation Committee in September passed a resolution urging Mississippi’s congressional delegation, Legislature and governor to help secure around $50 million in funding for emergency repairs on bridges along Mississippi Highway 6 between Batesville and Clarksdale. The approximately 40-mile stretch has nine to 10 deficient bridges, according to Walter Gresham, Delta Council president and chair of the council’s transportation committee.
“It’s very urgent that something needs to be done,” said Gresham, and noted the road is a major corridor for grain. Hundreds of truckloads of grain have been detoured from Highway 6 even though they are hauling a legally permitted weight load, the Delta Farm Press reported in September.
The bridges are posted for weights far below the allowed 84,000 pounds “because they are more than 50 years old and deteriorating,” said Butch Scipper, farmer and vice chair of the Delta Council’s Transportation Committee, in the Delta Farm Press report.
Simmons in 2013 led a transportation task force of legislators and representatives of transportation-reliant business sectors. They found an urgent need for the state to begin whittling a road and bridge maintenance backlog of more than $1 billion.
Business leaders, through the Mississippi Economic Council, which serves as the state’s chamber of commerce, say they need another year to study the entirety of the state’s transportation system and expect to make comprehensive recommendations to the Legislature in 2016, including proposals for funding the maintenance.
Joe Sanderson, CEO & chairman of Sanderson Farms and chair of the MEC transportation study committee, said he would “certainly support” putting money into bridge repairs in 2015, provided the legislative leadership deems state finances are sound enough.
While the MEC panel has done only preliminary examinations of funding sources, it likely will propose increases in the motor fuels tax, car tags and drivers licenses, according to Sanderson. “I don’t know if there will be additional ones, but those are the primary sources,” he said in an October interview.
Here are the locations of the Highway 6 bridges with the new postings:
» Bridge #37.8 (14167) — SR 6/ US 278 over Bobo Bayou, Quitman County 6.1 miles east of Marks;
» Bridge #36.8 (14159) — SR 6/ US 278 over Ash Log Bayou, Quitman County 5.1 miles east of Marks;
» Bridge #35.6 (14158) — SR 6/ US 278 over unnamed canal, Quitman County 3.9 miles east of Marks;
» Bridge #35.0 (14155) — SR 6/ US 278 over One Mile Bayou, Quitman County 3.3 miles east of Marks;
» Bridge #29.7 (14156) — SR 6/ US 278 over Buck Bayou, Quitman County 8.4 miles east of Coahoma/Quitman county line;
» Bridge #27.9 (14161) — SR 6/ US 278 over unnamed canal, Quitman County 6.7 miles east of Coahoma/Quitman county line;
» Bridge #23.5 (14160) — SR 6/ US 278 over unnamed canal, Quitman County 2.4 miles east of Coahoma/Quitman county line;
» Bridge #22.5 (14153) — SR 6/ US 278 over Cassidy Oxbow Bayou, Quitman County 1.4 miles east of Coahoma/Quitman county line;
» Bridge #22.3 (14152) — SR 6/ US 278 over Cassidy Oxbow Bayou, Quitman County 1.2 miles east of Coahoma/Quitman county line.
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