State of Emergency declared on Meridian bridges

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Mississippi transportation officials are recommending that two highly-traveled bridges in Meridian be closed immediately because they are in desperate need of repair. An inspection from MDOT listed two bridges, on Valley Road and Hawkins Crossing, as structures in dire need of attention.

"An inspection was done a few months ago and there were some deficiencies noted on some of the main support structures of those two bridges that ultimately led to MDOT making a recommendation that those two bridges be closed," said Public Works Director Hugh Smith.

Many of the bridge issues include wear and tear over time.

"The bridges as a whole are structurally sound. The issues that are in question are some of the pilings on these steel framed bridges. And some of those units have a significant amount of corrosion and to the point that the engineers feel the need to recommend that they be closed," said Smith.

The State of Emergency gives the city an expedited process of seeking money for repairs. Officials will begin writing a grant for the newly created Emergency Bridge and Road Fund. This multi-million dollar fund created through MDOT will distribute monies to different cities and counties around the state.

"I spoke with some of the county representatives and they're going through the same process that we are. So this is an overall issue for the state of Mississippi," said Smith.

"We're just trying to put a plan in place and a grant in place to try to get money as quickly as we can to address those issues," said Mayor Percy Bland.

Another bridge the city added to the list is on Old Highway 80. The bridge was temporarily fixed four years ago, but Smith wants to address the issue in one huge swing.

"We may or may not qualify. There's a rating criteria that will be used to determine which bridges, no matter where you are, to fit in their overall matrix so to speak but hopefully we will. And hopefully we'll get some funds from the state to go in and make these repairs," said Smith.

The grant deadline is next Friday.

In April, more than 100 locally maintained bridges were closed due to dangerous conditions after an executive order from Governor Phil Bryant.