Over the next couple of days, M.D.O.T. will be temporarily closing bridges in the area for maintenance work. Though the detours may cause headaches for drivers, engineers say the projects are worth it in the long run.
Chuck Starita, Project Engineer for M.D.O.T., says, "People don’t realize that after Katrina that you had bridges like the Bay St. Louis and the Biloxi Bridge that was completely out and it required hours and hours of detour, and even the little bitty bridges we have can require that same amount of detour, so people just drive over and don’t realize it, so keeping them in good shape to where we don’t run into a situation like that because of lack of maintenance is very necessary."
The first bridge to close will be the Wilkes drawbridge on Highway 605 in Gulfport for general maintenance. Starting Wednesday at 10 p.m., the bridge will close for a few hours, opening early Thursday morning. Starita also says, "We need to get traffic off of the lanes so we can get under the bridge and do a general inspection and maintenance. Sometimes that’s just as simple as greasing bearings; sometimes it might be replacing components of the bridge."
This weekend, starting on Friday at 7 p.m., the Pearl River Bridge on Interstate 10 will be down to one lane as crews work to replace a bridge joint. M.D.O.T. warns Saints fans of the potential traffic on Sunday and suggests taking Highway 90 as an alternate route. Starita also says, "Last weekend, we did the outside lanes. This weekend, we’ll do the inside lanes."
M.D.O.T. is currently out of funding in this year’s budget to support the maintenance of the state’s failing bridges, but Starita says south Mississippi’s bridges are up to par.
He closes, "No, there is nothing nobody needs to be fearful about. We’re doing the maintenance and doing what’s requited to make it safe.”