Federal officials close about 100 Mississippi bridges
JACKSON – Inspectors with the Federal Highway Administration are closing about 100 bridges on non-state highways across the state.
Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, announced the closures Friday morning on the Senate floor. State Aid Engineer Carey Webb confirmed the closures.
“It is going to hopefully be temporary closures,” Webb said Friday morning. “The counties can go out and do the repairs to get the bridges back open.”
Webb said his office, which provides state funds to aid local governments with the maintenance of major thoroughfares, is in the process of developing a list of the bridges.
Lee County officials said they knew of none of their bridges being impacted. But in Sunflower County where Simmons lives, he said all 12 inspected by federal officials had to be closed.
“I am going to have to spend more on gas to get home” because of all the detours, said Simmons, who is chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.
“We need money to repair the bridges,” Simmons said.
Various groups, led by the Mississippi Economic Council, have called for a sustained program to improve Mississippi’s transportation system, both on the state and local levels.
Both House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides over the Senate, have acknowledged the transportation needs, but have not be able to reach a consensus on a revenue source to fund the repairs. Earlier this week a bill that passed the House to try to force internet retailers to collect the 7 percent tax on items they sell to
Mississippians, expected to generate around $100 million annually for the state, died in the Senate.
The House also has passed a bill to sell bonds to provide $50 million to the cities and counties for bridge repairs. That proposal is pending in the Senate but would fall far short of addressing all the transportation need across the state, officials say.
The MEC has advocated for spending an additional $375 million annually on transportation needs.
Webb said the federal officials closed about three-fourths of the bridges they inspected in the state during the past two weeks. All were posted at less than three tons by local officials, meaning they were open only for use by passenger vehicles.
A 2015 MEC study found that 936 state bridges and more than 24,500 miles of state highways are in disrepair, and on the local level, 2,989 bridges and nearly 13,300 roads are in need of repair.
It would take $6.6 billion to fund all of the transportation needs, the MEC study found.