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Bridge, road projects progress

While trucking through Lincoln County, motorists will see somechanges along Interstate 55. The Mississippi Department ofTransportation is steering in the direction of improved bridges andsafer road conditions.

“There is about to be a lot of money spent around Brookhaven,”said MDOT District 7 Construction Engineer Ken Morris.

Through the next year, more than $18 million will ensure thatbridges on Interstate 55 receive widening, medians gain some addedprotection and roads get some new asphalt.

The biggest of the three plans, a $10 million design buildproject, began several weeks ago on Bogue Chitto Road as crewsbegan ripping down guardrails, cutting a line down the bridge anddriving more support into the ground to sustain an extra 18 feet orso of concrete.

“They demolish the outside of the existing bridge and everythingout there will be brand new,” said Morris. “Just like buildingparts of the bridge new from the ground up.”

The bridge over Bogue Chitto Road is one of six sites that willbe included in the multi-million dollar overhaul. The additionallocations in Lincoln County include Dickerson Creek, Big Creek,Bogue Chitto River, Brookway Boulevard at Exit 40 and Union Streetat Exit 42.

“These bridges are really, really old,” said Morris.

Crews are working to widen bridge shoulders to roughly 44 feetin width, bringing the out-of-date bridges to current designstandard width. Being current will allow the area to remaineligible for federal funding in future projects.

Since the job is a design-build project, the duties are carriedout a little differently than standard procedure. Instead of MDOTdeveloping plans, the contractor establishes the designs andconstructs the bridges under the supervision of MDOT.

The design-build project not only allows a massive project toget completed in faster time because construction crews handle thewhole project instead of one bridge at a time, but MDOT was alsoable to get the most for their money. Rather than accepting a lowbidder, MDOT presented an amount of money to spend on theconstruction and accepted the company that could do the most amountof work all while meeting MDOT standards.

“It’s not like it’s cheap work,” said Morris.

The bridge project is expected to be finished in July of 2012and was awarded to Joe McGee Construction Company out of Lake.Federal funding is covering the costs of the development.

Morris said one of the reasons Lincoln County was chosen for thedevelopment was because of its importance in the event of coastalevacuation.

“We can’t turn down a $10 million job and let it go to anotherpart of the state,” he said.

While Lincoln County is in the process of getting wider bridges,regular travelers also will be able to take advantage of smootherroads and median protection in the near future.

Roughly 116,000 linear feet of fencing will be used to create amedian cable barrier along Interstate 55 in Pike and Lincolncounties. The construction is being funded federally and is costingabout $2 million.

“Anywhere it’s really flat is where they’ll go,” saidMorris.

The steel cable fence will be used to catch straying cars fromcrossing the median into oncoming traffic.

The construction is expected to begin soon and finish inJuly.

The final of three projects will be a $6 million overlaying andmilling job along the interstate. Crews will begin this month tosmooth over roughly 10 miles from Highway 84 to the Copiah Countyline.

Morris said they have been waiting for the OK from theInterstate Committee to spend the district funds necessary for thepaving and that the project should hopefully be completed inSeptember.

“We’ve been trying to do it for four, five, six years now,” hesaid. “The asphalt is old and needs to be replaced.”