Gov. Phil Bryant signed today a proclamation declaring a state of emergency that orders the Mississippi Department of Transportation to immediately close 83 locally owned bridges that have been judged 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.
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,” Gov. 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 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 Governor also noted that he while this is a temporary solution to a longterm problem he is hopeful that agreements are being made between the House and Senate to find a solution to the stated infrastructure woes. He said if he felt they were significantly close to an understanding there would be potential for a Special Session this summer revolving around infrastructure.