Thursday, May 3, 2012
Bridge project fast tracked
By SUE WATSON
The replacement of three bridges on Highway 178 East in the Chewalla/Potts Camp area is being expedited and all three bridge replacements are working as one project, according to Mitch Turner.
Turner is the Mississippi Department of Transportation engineer at the District 2 office in Batesville. He steps up from assistant engineer to fill the position vacated by Richard Allen, who is retiring.
Turner said the Chewalla Creek Bridge was found to be in such bad shape when routinely inspected earlier this year, that MDOT decided to close the bridge short-term while the agency considered whether to repair or replace the bridge.
Two other bridges set for replacement on the same highway are the Tippah Relief Bridge, a flood bridge that relieves the Tippah River Bridge during high waters, and the Tippah River Bridge, itself.
Turner said MDOT realizes the inconvenience to residents who normally travel the state-maintained highway, and for that reason the replacement of all three bridges is taking place as quickly as possible.
Preconstruction work – the moving of utilities and purchase of rights-of-way at the bridges – is planned, he said. Right-of-way acquisition for the Chewalla Creek Bridge will begin the first of June and the utility departments will begin moving utilities out of the way for construction in the late fall, Turner said.
The Chewalla Creek Bridge has been closed for over a month and is the first one that will be replaced, hopefully starting with bidding for construction in January 2013, Turner said.
A Jackson engineering firm, ABMB, has already been hired to do the bridge design work, he said.
As it stands now, Highway 178 East is closed at either end of the Chewalla Creek Bridge which goes over the railroad as well.
Once the Chewalla Creek Bridge is replaced, the highway will be opened up on the Chewalla Creek Bridge end so landowners may access their property from the west end while the highway is closed to replace the Tippah River Bridge and Tippah Relief Bridge.
Turner said MDOT currently plans to let the bid for all three bridges in January.
Landowners in the area should be made offers for rights-of-way in the next couple of months, Turner said. He praised Marshall County and utility departments for supplying MDOT with maps and easement information that is helping expedite the bridge replacement process.
“I know it’s a big aggravation to people living on that road and our job is to get that back open as soon as we can,” Turner said. “It is a severe inconvenience to people who may live near one end of the closed bridge and go to work somewhere beyond the other end.”
A definite time when all three bridges will be completed and Highway 178 East reopened cannot be given, but the project is being fast tracked, Turner said.
District 5 supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett expressed concern over disruption of farm and field routes for at least four farmers whose land is split off by the bridge closing. Cattle feed and row crop equipment will have to go the long way around, he said, on dangerously narrow and curvy roads to get to property from one side of the Chewalla Creek Bridge to the other.
He expressed hope that a temporary bridge could be put for farmers only at the old, old Highway 178 bridge site.
Four farmers – Glen Humphreys, Jimmy Gurley, Jody McMinn and Randy Walker – will have to go around the long way to work their lands for two or three crop years, he said.
Bennett said it would take two to three years to build the bridges.
The long way around will be from farm headquarters on 178 on the east side of Chewalla Creek Bridge, to Potts Camp and Potts Camp Road, to the CCC Road, which crosses the interstate, and back down to the 178 side, he said. That computes to about 15 miles to move equipment from one side of the creek to the other. And large tractors and equipment will have to travel narrow, sometimes gravel roads, where passing is difficult and where a person can be surprised by traffic coming around a curve.
“We have to live with it,” Bennett said. “It’s out of my hands. I wish the state would do something to accommodate farmers.”
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