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Bridges remain closed in Marion

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 9:00 PM CDT
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LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Miss. (WTOK) - There’s no doubt there’s a problem with infrastructure in the country. We’ve seen impacts locally, especially when it comes to bridges.

The bridge on Lizelia Rd. closed in mid-April and it will remain that way through the end of 2021.

When the Federal Highway Administration deemed it unsafe, the county immediately started the ball rolling to replace it, but that takes time.

“The problems we face are funding,” District 1 Supervisor Jonathan Wells explained. “We want to be proactive, but a lot of times we find ourselves chasing our tail and responding to emergencit’s rather than being proactive. We are working on getting there.”

Once a county is notified that a bridge needs to close, they have 24 hours to do so. That’s when the lengthy process of replacing the bridge begins.

“The first step in that process is programming the project through state aid,” Road Manager and County Engineer Rush Mayatt said. “That takes board order and board approval. Once that’s done we submit that to the state and they review the concept.”

There are 302 bridges in Lauderdale County. Currently, the county has around 30 with reduced weight limits. Mayatt said they try to stay ahead of the curve, but it’s a lengthy process, especially when there’s no warning.

“Any time a bridge is posted or the weight limit is reduced, obviously there are deficiencies that are found. How you respond to correcting, repairing or replacing those deficiencies is crucial,” Mayatt said.

It takes roughly seven minutes to bypass the closed bridge on Lizelia Rd. If that route is part of your daily commute to work, then that’s at least 14 minutes of travel time every day. The bridge has been closed since April, so that works out to roughly 18 hours of extra travel time so far this year (April to July).

“At this spot we are going to move the road over and straighten out the curve a little bit,” Wells said. “Not only are we working on land acquisition, we are working on bridge planning and what that looks like. That has to be okayed at the state level.”

The bridge on Highway 80 near Lost Gap was recently replaced after being closed for more than a year. It reopened in early May.

Meanwhile, just across the county line in Newton, MDOT is working on replacing a different bridge on the same highway.

County officials say they don’t foresee other bridges closing in the near future.

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