Lincoln County to remove Warren Ave. bridge after MDAH approval

Published 9:42 am Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has approved the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors’ request to remove the Warren Avenue bridge.

District 3 Supervisor Nolan Williamson said the approval was 12 years in the making.

Nolan Williamson

Nolan Williamson

The wooden bridge, which sits at the intersection of South Railroad Avenue and East Warren, was closed due to its structural integrity years ago.

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“I got a letter last Friday about our Warren Avenue bridge,” county engineer Ryan Holmes said. “We finally got approval. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History was our one road block in removing it.”

Holmes and the board have been working with the department since September of last year. The department was involved because of the bridge’s age and possible historic significance.

Since receiving the letter, Holmes contacted BRB, a railroad contractor from Yazoo City, to get an estimate on removing it.

“I talked to the contractor,” Holmes said. “I called him, one, to see if he would still honor his price from last fall, and two, to see if he was interested in removing the bridge. He said he would honor the price on the quotes we got at the time. It will probably be about a month before he could come do the work, but when they come it’s only going to take them about a week.”

The board began the process of tearing down the bridge in March 2015 after a railway company sent a letter asking them to take action by either repairing or removing it.

The railroad’s concern stemmed from the fact that the bridge is wooden. If it continued to deteriorate, it could produce debris that would create safety issues for the train tracks below.

The railroad produced an agreement that the board signed on Feb. 16, 2000, saying the board would remove, repair or stabilize it. County attorney Bob Allen said then the county would be bound to the agreement.

District 1 Supervisor Rev. Jerry Wilson said the board tried to do something about the bridge, which is in his district, in the past but faced obstacles.

“The bridge was not built for modern transportation,” City attorney Joe Fernald said last year. “In order to replace it, it would be extremely expensive to pay for things like grading and road design.”

Fernald said it was the amount of money it would take for the project that halted any changes to the bridge in the past. Fernald said at least eight years ago the city and county went through a project to look at reconstructing the bridge.

“We explored it in great detail,” Fernald said. He also said a joint decision was made then to not take any action due to cost. He said there was no other place on the railroad near the area that would fulfill a bridge’s clearance requirements without taking over existing businesses and homes, which the city would have to purchase.

Wilson said at Monday’s meeting that he would like to see the city and county once again reassess its options on rebuilding a bridge where the old one would be torn down.

“If a tragedy happened in that area of town, there is no way you can get to the hospital in time without having a way to cross there,” Wilson said.

Holmes acknowledged Wilson’s concerns, but said that it would be the city’s decision to rebuild the bridge once the county removed it.

“The bridges are inspected by the county — paid by the federal highway administration,” Holmes said. “If a bridge is in the city limits, from time to time y’all do work on them, you have to in order to keep our funding. But at the end of the day if the city wants a bridge there, they are going to need to take action on that.”

There are currently two in-service bridges in the city that provide alternate routes across the railroad tracks from the east part of the city to the west — the bypass bridge on U.S. Hwy. 84 and the county bridge on Industrial Park Road.