East Hardy bridge construction slated for summer

By BETH BUNCH,

It will only be a matter of months before construction begins on a new East Hardy Street bridge.

A proposed layout for the new bridge was presented to the Forrest County Board of Supervisors Monday. The new structure will replace the almost 70-year-old bridge connecting East Hardy Street in Hattiesburg and South Main Street in Petal.

Funds for the new bridge were allocated during last summer’s special session of the Mississippi Legislature through an application from the board.

The new bridge will be constructed 100 feet downstream of the existing structure and will feature a bike path/pedestrian pathway on the north side.

For the most part, businesses along the stretch of highway on each side will not be affected greatly.

“It may take a little off the front a couple of the businesses on the Hattiesburg side, but there’s not reason for any of them to move,” said Nick Connolly, engineer for the county and Shows, Dearman and Waits.

Connolly said on the Petal side of the bridge, only one business may be disrupted by the construction. The roadwork leading up to the bridge on the east side will tie in with the intersection at Carterville Road.

On the west side of the bridge, there will be a two-lane road leading up to the bridge with a boulevard section, with landscaping and curbs. There will also continue to be access to the cemetery on the Hub City side.

The Petal side will feature three-lanes with a turn lane in the middle section.

Along the bike/pedestrian path (5’5” inches wide) there will be no concrete barrier, but rather a two-foot painted barrier between the two.

There will be no structure above the new bridge like is currently no the existing bridge and the whole project will be lighted. There will be no sewer or water lines connected to the bridge.

A rough timeline has the field review plans completed by Dec. 17 with a completed plan presented to the board in January 2020.

At that time, Connolly said the board will have time to make comments, revision and additions. Final plans should be completed by mid-April with bids going out in May to be opened in June and construction to start immediately after that.

The construction of the bridge is estimated to take between 18 and 24 months.

The current intention is to demolish the old bridge. “That’s tentative,” said Connolly. “We have the approval from the Mississippi Archives and History. They don’t consider it particularly historic.”

The demolition would involve cutting the bridge cut into parts and hauling it off with some of the metal being sold for scrap.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife has signed off on the demolition, as long as the Gulf Sturgeon is not in season. They also expressed concert regarding a certain type of turtle.

The bridge itself should run in the $7 to $8 million mark, while road improvements will eat up another $2 to $3 million. There’s also the $1 million price tag for taking down the old bridge.

Connolly said the demolition can always be dropped if they find themselves running out of money.

“We are looking in the $12 million range with everything,” Connolly said.

District 5’s Chris Bowen questioned the extra $3.5 million which would be left on the table.

Connolly said there will be additional costs such as right-of-way procurement, engineering fees, and environmental fees, among others, which will require the other money.

Bowen also questioned the possibility of the $12 million estimated cost  turning into $13.5 million rather quickly once the bidding process rolls around.

“We’re trying hard not to have that happen,” said Connolly. “Anything above what the state has given you ($15.2 million) is coming out of your pocket.”