Emergency bridge funding deadline nears

By MARK ROGERS,

As the deadline to apply for $250 million in emergency bridge repairs looms, Marion County officials are determining which to apply for.

Applications are due to the Mississippi Department of Transportation by midnight Friday, and last week County Engineer Jeff Dungan met with the Board of Supervisors to prioritize the list.

“We need to stick with major bridges to apply for,” he told the board. “We’ve got the two on Williamsburg Road, one on New Hope Road and there is one on Shiloh Firetower Road that has 28 pilings. We also have a bridge on Old River Road South and one on Kokomo Road that round up the Top 5 projects.”

Dungan noted that the city of Columbia would be applying for grants to repair or rebuild the bridge on Columbia Purvis Road near U.S. 98 and one on National Guard Road. The city board is also considering work on the Dewey Street bridge, which closed earlier this year.

MDOT says on its application site that there are five goals that have been established with the legislation that permitted the funding. Goals include:

• Funding projects that meet an existing safety concern to the traveling public.

• Funding projects that restore commerce and the economic vitality of the community, region, state or nation.

• Funding projects that address existing issues of impeding mobility and accessibility on public roadways.

 “Almost all of these bridges in the city and county are on major routes,” Dungan said. “We should be able to make a really good application. We’ve been working to get them done.”

According to MDOT, the evaluation process will begin almost immediately after receipt of the applications. In January approvals will begin and disbursement of money to local governments will begin. The program is designed ot aid Mississippi’s infrastructure problems that have been compounded by a federally-mandated bridge inspection program that has closed hundreds of bridges across the state and more than a dozen in Marion County.

Dungan told the board that inspectors were back in Marion County with 14 more bridges to inspect. Inspectors are targeting bridges with wooden pilings.

The county board voted unanimously to submit an application on a motion by District 2 Supervisor Terry Broome that was seconded by District 5 Supervisor Calvin Newsom.