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Governor Bryant declares state of emergency, closes 106 bridges

Governor Phil Bryant. Photo courtesy of Telesouth Communications Inc.

Mississippi bridges have caused the Governor to declare a state of emergency.

Governor Bryant signed a proclamation declaring a state of emergency that orders the Mississippi Department of Transportation to immediately close 106 locally owned bridges that have been deemed “deficient” by the federal National Bridge Inspection Standards and the Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction.

The bridges slated for immediate closure are in Amite, Carroll, Clarke, Greene, Hinds, Humphreys, Itawamba, Jasper, Jones, Lauderdale, Leake, Lincoln, Newton, Pike, Smith and Wayne counties. The proclamation also applies to bridges that are found to be deficient in the future.

A full list of the closed bridges has been made available by the Office of State Aid Road Construction. To view the list – click here.

According to the Governor, the bridges will remain closed until they are in compliance with federal and state laws, regulations and standards.

“These bridges have been deemed unsafe for the traveling public,” Governor Bryant said. “Keeping them open constitutes an unnecessary risk to public safety, violates the corrective action plan agreed upon by the state and federal government and jeopardizes federal infrastructure funds Mississippi receives.”

In a recent interview with the JT Show on Supertalk Mississippi, Governor Bryant said that he received a call from Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. During the call, she stated that Mississippi would in fact, lose federal funds if the bridges remained open.

In November 2016, the Federal Highway Administration Mississippi Division Office began working with MDOT to review and evaluate the bridges that were identified in the National Bridge Inventory as being in the worst condition, to ensure they were safe to remain open to traffic.

In March 2017, FHWA worked with MDOT and the Office of State Aid Road Construction to develop and implement an action plan to address NBIS compliance issues concerning the proper inspection and closure of unsafe bridges. The primary action item in the plan required the state to hire independent consultants to perform the NBIS inspections of all local bridges with timber substructure.

During the week of March 19, 2018, The FHWA Mississippi Division subsequently determined many of the bridges deemed deficient remained open to the public.

The U.S. Department of Transportation notified the state last week that FHWA is concerned that the bridges remaining open constitutes an unacceptable safety risk to the traveling public whose remedy requires immediate federal, state and local action.

The question now becomes, how does Mississippi move forward? Lawmakers adjourned without passing a comprehensive plan to improve the state’s roads and bridges, but this issue could lead to a special session, which can only be called by the Governor.

“We need to look at something that can have an immediate response,” the Governor said. “I told the secretary that we would have a corrective action plan within two weeks to her office to prevent any termination of federal dollars to the state for these federal highway programs. So, I am working with the leadership of the House and Senate to make sure that we have a suitable solution for this problem.”

Governor Bryant said the legislature did put $50 million into a bond package to repair bridges, but that doesn’t go into effect until July 1st.

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