Marion County is beginning to get its dilapidated bridge situation under control, with plans to repair or replace about 20 bridges over the next year.
The latest scheduled to be fixed is on Kokomo Road, according to discussions County Engineer Jeff Dungan had with the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation announced in January the county will be getting $1.6 million for two bridges on Williamsburg Road and nearly $631,000 for a bridge on Old River Road South.
Because of that emergency program money, the board will be cancelling the state-aid program for Williamsburg Road and the Local System Bridge Program for River Road. Dungan said the county currently has $233,000 in state-aid money for Williamsburg Road and $785,000 from LSBP for River Road.
“That money will be freed up. What I would like to do with the state-aid money is programming the bridge on Kokomo Road — it’s a state-aid bridge, has timber piling and needs to be replaced — and that’s enough money to do it,” he said.
The board agreed to begin developing a plan to use the money for Kokomo Road.
The bridge crisis came to a head when federal inspectors in late 2017 began ordering the closure of scores of wooden-pile bridges throughout the state. Marion County approved borrowing $3 million in 2018 to make bridge repairs, and then the Legislature agreed to a bond issue of its own during a 2018 special session that is funding 163 bridge-repair projects totaling $250 million.
In addition to the two Marion County bridges, the City of Columbia is receiving nearly $800,000 to repair a bridge on Columbia-Purvis Road.
Dungan applauded the Legislature, MDOT and the transportation commissioner for the Southern District, Tom King, for the emergency funding.
“It was very much needed and appreciated,” he said.
Dungan informed supervisors they would receive a memorandum of agreement within the next two weeks for both projects, and the board will have 30 days to review it before sending it back in. He added the process is expected to move quickly.
“They have every intention of transferring the first installment of that money for each project by the end of February,” he said. “They’re going to give like 20 percent of the money for upfront costs, and once we open bids for the projects they’ll give us the rest of the money. It’s going to move quick because both of those projects are shovel ready.”
Dungan added there are a lot of yet-to-be-determined projects that could be coming with bridge inspections currently taking place, and the county’s $785,000 from LSBP could be prioritized for those.
“We’ve got some pretty major county bridges that are being looked at pretty close,” he said.
Dungan said six bridges are currently being replaced with bond money, including on Albert Rayburn Road, Cavanaugh Road and three on Clear Creek Church Road.
Dungan said that while there is still a lot of work to be done, Marion County is starting to get on top of the bridge issues.
"There are 17 bridges we have a plan for that are in the works that over the next year or so will unfold. Then we have this LSBP money that we should be able to put two or three more under contract, so there’s about 20 bridges now we can say we have a method to address them,” he said. “And you have the remainder of your bond money for other bridges you may decide need to be permanently replaced.”
Pictured Above: County Engineer Jeff Dungan, left, meets with the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. A combination of a $3 million bond issue and state emergency bridge funds have helped address the county’s bridge crisis. | Photo by Joshua Campbell