A well-traveled bridge in Lamar County is being temporarily closed for repairs on orders from the Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction.
On Thursday, the Lamar County Board of Supervisors voted to declare an emergency situation to immediately shut down the concrete bridge on Caney Church Road, which connects Purvis To Columbia Road to Mississippi 13. The bridge is located just south of Ben Sones Road over the Lower Little River.
According to a letter from State Aid Engineer Harry Lee James, the bridge piles cannot provide adequate structural capacity at two of the bridge’s bents – or girders across the top of the piers – because of a small pile cross-section paired with the unbraced length of approximately 20 feet.
“What it amounts to is that we have a concrete bridge with concrete piling, concrete superstructure, no timber associated with the bridge,” County Engineer Don Walker said. “All of the pilings are 12-inch square pilings, which are narrow pilings – we don’t use 12-inch pilings anymore.
“Two bents that were generally in the area of the main channel have a total height of what we refer to as an unbraced link exceeding 20 feet, and that unbraced link is causing these problems for those slender piles. The load rating consultants are required to run their analysis using a specific software program dictated by the Federal Highway Administration, and that program came back and indicated that the bridge should not just be posted – the bridge should be immediately closed.”
Walker said the bridge, which was designed and constructed between 1966 to 1968, looks good on first appearance, but does not pass the current load rating program.
“I did call and talk to the load rating engineer, and he said that he struggled with having to send out this report because he knew the bridge has withstood all these years, and there did not appear to be a major issue,” Walker said. “He talked to State Aid about it, but they had no choice but to send out the critical finding report on that.”
Walker’s team will need to build up and encase the piles on the bridge, as well as put in lateral bracing on the two bents in question. Officials also will consult with a structural and bridge engineer from Jackson to develop a plan to work with the load rating consultant.
“It is kind of an emergency situation, I feel, based on that being a major route that we need to address,” Walker said. “We have a little bit of State Aid funds – I don’t know how much this repair would cost, but we could possibly utilize some of those funds.
“If we don’t have enough to do anything with that, we might have to go into bond funds or general county funds to bring it back into shape.”
The bridge will remain closed until repairs are completed, during which time detours will be posted along the road.