New PEER report gives perspective to bridge crisis - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

New PEER report gives perspective to bridge crisis

New watchdog reports sheds light on how the state got in its current bridge crisis. Source: WLBT New watchdog reports sheds light on how the state got in its current bridge crisis. Source: WLBT
New watchdog reports sheds light on how the state got in its current bridge crisis. Source: WLBT New watchdog reports sheds light on how the state got in its current bridge crisis. Source: WLBT
New watchdog reports sheds light on how the state got in its current bridge crisis. Source: WLBT New watchdog reports sheds light on how the state got in its current bridge crisis. Source: WLBT
New watchdog reports sheds light on how the state got in its current bridge crisis. Source: WLBT New watchdog reports sheds light on how the state got in its current bridge crisis. Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -

A new legislative watchdog report is shedding light on how the state got into the bridge crisis.

It's also offering ideas on how to prevent another crisis in the future.

County bridges are typically inspected by county engineers. The PEER report says they usually get paid around $350 to $480 per bridge inspection, but the federal action plan required the state to hire independent consultants for those inspections.

The estimate on how much taxpayers are paying for them?

$10,500 per bridge.

It's money well spent according to the Mississippi Department of Transportation's executive director, Melinda McGrath.

"Yes we are spending more on inspections now than we were, but the inspections they were doing were inadequate," said McGrath. "They weren't in accordance with federal law."

That means public safety was in jeopardy.

"So if we spend an extra couple of million more than we were spending, but it saves a life, is it worth it?" added McGrath. "To me, it's worth it."

McGrath thought there was a missing piece to the PEER report. She wanted to see a recommendation about enforcement at the local level.

"I was a little disappointed when it came to the local bridge component," she said. "Those trucks that the local officials are not stopping and enforcing the weight limit, they are expediting when that bridge is going to go out of service and be closed."

PEER Committee Member Senator Terry Burton agrees that there are lessons to be learned. 

"I think the action that comes out of this is train the county engineers," Burton explained. "That's the number one thing to make sure they know the criteria that the feds are looking for and don't put out federal dollars at risk."

The report suggests the Office of State Aids Roads provide training for the county engineers so they'll be ready to take over inspections again after year two of the federal action plan.

To view the full PEER report, click HERE.

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