MISSISSIPPI DELTA — As the 2014 harvest progresses, the transportation arteries that move the crop from the field to its market place in Northwest Mississippi is choked down, according to Stoneville-based Delta Council.
Due to structurally deficient bridge structures throughout the Batesville-to-Clarksdale reach of Highway 6, hundreds of trucks loaded full of grain are being detoured to other routes even though they are carrying a legally permitted weight load of grain in their trucks.
“Simply put, we have a permit to load grain in trucks to a level of 84,000 pounds, but the bridges along Highway 6 are posted at weight limits that are far below that capacity because they are more than 50 years old and deteriorating,” stated Butch Scipper, a farmer and local public official from Quitman County who presided over a meeting recently called by Delta Council.
Delta Council convened concerned farmers, businessmen and public officials to meet with MDOT leaders to identify a short-term, 2014 alternative. Also, the 18-county organization used the meeting to stress the necessity of an emergency and expedited schedule for bridge replacements throughout Highway 6.
“There is certainly no farmer who wants to compromise the safety of the traveling public, but it is even more unreasonable for us to be in a situation where all commerce, including agricultural crops, manufacturing goods and other services to an entire region to be literally stopped in the middle of a highway and turned around because the State of Mississippi has not dedicated the necessary funding for bridge maintenance on a major highway,” added Scipper, the Quitman County Chancery Clerk and farmer who has been a top leader of the Delta Council Highway Committee for many years.
The Delta Council group adopted a resolution urging the Mississippi Congressional delegation, embers of the Mississippi Legislature, the Office of the Governor and the Mississippi Department of Transportation to treat Highway 6 bridge replacement as an emergency relief operation since the major east-west corridor controls the movement of commerce and economic activity in the northwest part of the state.
The replacement of the structurally deficient bridges along Highway 6 are estimated to cost $50 million.
In order to move these projects into an expedited schedule, the group at the Clarksdale meeting was told that environmental documentation would have to be hurriedly completed, right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation would have to be implemented, and the design-construction phase would need to be advanced at once.
“This is a situation of crisis dimensions for this part of the State and it is a terrific blow to the local economy when any business must incur the added expense of traveling extra miles to get their goods and services to the market place,” said Scipper.
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