Officials get more details on Caney Church bridge repair

By HASKEL BURNS,

A couple weeks after closing the bridge over the Lower Little River on Caney Church Road outside of Lumberton, Lamar County officials now have a more definite picture of what repairs will need to be made to bring the bridge into compliance with the current load rating program.

During the recent meeting of the Lamar County Board of Supervisors, County Engineer Don Walker said each of the bridge’s 24 exposed 12-inch pilings will need to be reinforced before the bridge can be reopened.

“(If we don’t do that), we’ll have to go on the bridge even after we do the work,” he said. “We have prepared the State Aid program, and it’s going to State Aid for processing to do the repair work.

“So if we do that work on those pilings, we will have no posting that will be required on the bridge (after reopening).”

The bridge was closed Nov. 22 on orders from the Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction. 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.”

After being made aware of the orders, supervisors voted to declare an emergency situation to immediately shut down the bridge and post detours along Caney Church Road, which connects Purvis To Columbia Road with Mississippi 13.

“I recommend that we go with what we’re proposing,” Walker said. “We’ve already looked at a couple of options with the load rating consultant, and he ran it through the Federal Highway Administration software.

“If we do it that way and repair the bridge, we can get it back in service and open it with no restrictions.”

An estimated cost for the work is not yet available, as officials are still working on numbers regarding which method will be used for repairs.

“We’ve got to get the final approval for the final concept that we’re going to do – whether it’s forming and reinforcing steel and concrete to beef up the pilings, or whether we simply take a large steel pipe and cut it in half, and use it as form and fill it with concrete,” Walker said. “We’re looking at those two options to see which would be the most economic, and also which could be done faster.

“We probably won’t have contractors on site until January, so it’ll be next year at least.”