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Bridge may open to traffic in 2 weeks

Traffic may be able to use the Bogue Chitto River bridge in aslittle as two weeks, a construction official said.

“I’m kind of hoping in about two weeks we may be able to turntraffic on it,” said Jimmy Bullock, project manager for T.L.Wallace Construction Co., of Columbia.

The last span has been poured, and crews are busy removing theforms from underneath, he said. Meanwhile, a crew fromsubcontractor American Field Service, of Madison, is erecting thefencing to pour the guardrails and preparing to paint the yellowlines.

Once those tasks are complete, Bullock said, the state bridgeinspector should clear the bridge for traffic.

“There’s a lot to do still after traffic is allowed on thebridge, but we won’t be interfering with traffic,” he said.

Despite the dangers of traveling a tall, winding bridge with noguardrails, Bullock said a few people have driven the bridge bygoing around the barricades. They have been stopped afterwards andwarned about the bridge being unsafe.

“This bridge is still closed. People need to remember that,” hesaid.

T.L. Wallace received the contract to complete the bridge inJune after the original contractor went into default and wasterminated from the project.

The bridge has been the subject of controversy in the BogueChitto area since it was closed nearly two years ago. Originallyprojected for December 2005 at the latest, the bridge lay idle fromSeptember 2004, when the original contractor, Mid-SouthConstruction, of Columbia, removed its work crews from the site,until June 2005 when T.L. Wallace was contracted.

The contractor’s bonding agency, Insurance Company of the West,took over the project June 6 and contracted T.L. WallaceConstruction to complete the project.

The original bridge contract was awarded for $2.8 million.Mid-South had been paid $2.63 million for its work, leaving only$553,500 left in federal funds to complete the contract, CountyEngineer Carl Ray Furr said. That total is not enough to completethe contract, but the bonding agency must absorb any additionalcosts, he said.

Insurance Company of the West is also being assessed a fine of$390 for each day crews could be working on the project since thecontract’s expiration until the bridge’s completion. The penaltyoriginally was levied against Mid-South, which has since gone outof business.