Commission, rail company disagree over bridge fees

VICKSBURG — The Vicksburg Bridge Commission and the Kansas City Southern Railway have been at odds for eight years on what the railroad will pay to run trains across the Mississippi River on the old U.S. Highway 80 bridge.

In September 2005, the five-member commission adopted a per-car rate of $14 — more than triple the $4 rate paid since the bridge opened in 1930 — to finance repairs to the span and slow sloughing against piers by the county’s erodible loess soil.

A few rounds in arbitration later, the rate hasn’t changed and doesn’t figure to anytime soon.

“Because the expenditures and receipts have not caused any deficit to the bridge, we’ve pretty much tabled the issue,” VBC chairman Robert Moss said. “It’s a little bit difficult to ask for money for something that’s going to happen at an unknown point in the future.”

The Vicksburg Post reports audit figures show the commission collected $1.15 million in tolls from 300,166 cars counted in fiscal year 2012, up from $1.09 million from 284,094 cars counted for fiscal 2011. Fiscal years for the bridge run July through June. An audit for fiscal 2013 is expected sometime in August.

For decades, the railroad has paid $4 a car for the first 125,000 cars per year and $3.75 for each car after that.

Moss said since the commissioners last tried to renegotiate the rate, five projects to repair parts or slow the effects of soil movement on the bridge piers have been completed at a cost of about $2 million.

In October, concrete barriers 18 feet high and about 8 inches thick were formed into the soil below the bridge’s administrative office, at a cost of $549,440. The work left about $165,000 in the commission’s $1.2 million budget for bank stabilization.

 

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