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Up bridge, down bridge

Drawbridge construction

Drawbridge construction

Drawbridge project offers plenty of challenges

It is a common issue in bridge construction — managing vehicular traffic while building. But one project in Mississippi has the contractor watching maritime traffic, too, and on a tight timeframe to avoid the peak hurricane season.

If that were not enough, the builder has a second bridge project underway at the same time in the same vicinity.

The final phase of the major rehabilitation of the Interstate 110 drawbridge over the Back Bay of Biloxi is underway. The Mississippi Department of Transportation awarded Boh Brothers Construction Company, LLC, of New Orleans the $4.1-million project late last year.

The project replaces the stringers and steel gird decking of the Walter L. Nixon Sr. Interstate I-110 Drawbridge, which is celebrating its 40th birthday this year. The first phase of the project involved the removal of the existing median barrier, which had to be conducted before the structural steel could be replaced.

Traffic management was an immediate concern. While all four travel lanes remained open during the first phase, the interstate’s lanes narrowed and saw a slight shift prior to reaching the construction zone. Thus, no wide loads were permitted on the drawbridge throughout the construction project.

Marine traffic was also restricted at the Back Bay bridge during the project, and that continues into the final phase. MDOT sent closure notices before work began to affected parties, including marinas, marine-related businesses and seafood-processing facilities.

Just as important was working before the hurricane season reached its height. The bridge is an important evacuation routs for Coast residents.

The bridge deck construction took approximately 14 weeks to complete. MDOT District Six engineer Kelly Castleberry said the timing would “lessen the impact of the restricted openings of the drawbridge.”

Last January, MDOT announced the beginning of phase two of the project, which involved the replacement of the structural steel — the largest part of the project. Boh Brothers managed to conduct the work with the drawbridge open to motorists, though the project forced intermittent lane closures. However, the ban on wide loads remained.

The drawbridge was not totally closed to marine traffic during phase two. However, parties were required to call a toll-free number at least 72 hours in advance, and the bridge was only open on Mondays and Thursdays at 6 a.m.

MDOT announced phase three of the project last March. This phase involved repairing the steel gird deck on the western half of the drawbridge.

This phase necessitated more traffic management. Only one southbound lane remained open, though two northbound lanes were available to motorists. The wide load ban and limited access to marine traffic remained.

On April 13, MDOT announced the fourth and final phase of the rehabilitation project, which encompassed replacing the median barrier that separates the southbound and northbound lanes. The prior traffic management measures remain in place.

MDOT has set the final completion of the project for this June.

The drawbridge project marked the second MDOT-awarded bridge project on I-110 in 2010. Last September, MDOT awarded Boh Brothers the $4-million contract to reconstruct the Interstate 110 Bascule Bridge in Biloxi.

Work on the project consists of replacing the structural steel within the bridge draw span. The structural steel was fabricated off-site then transported to the worksite.

“Currently, the bascule bridge at I-110 requires lots of maintenance,” said MDOT project engineer Michael Harter. “Along with meeting higher standards, this rehabilitated bridge will consist of newly designed steel gird decking, which will greatly minimize repairs and delays to motorists.”

The only time traffic flow was impacted was during the replacement of the drawbridge’s span.

MDOT said the work on the bascule bridge is expected to be completed this month.


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