Compromised bridges leave rural communities concerned about emergency response
HINDS COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) - Bridge inspections by the Office of State Aid Road Construction lead to some closures and downgrades for weight limits.
These safety precautions are causing some concerns in rural communities.
The weight limit on a bridge on Traxler Road in Hinds County, not far from Highway 18, was lowered to five tons because of structural problems.
Some residents are now concerned that fire trucks, which exceed the limit, may not be able to reach them in an emergency.
Hinds County Public Works Director Charles Sims said 86 bridges are posted with weight limits of five to 10 tons.
This means fire trucks, school buses and even some county equipment are prevented from crossing the structures.
Many of the bridges are not deemed safe to travel because of infrastructure problems like rotten wood pilings and other issues.
Utica Volunteer Fire Department Chief Sammy White Jr. said the lowered weight limits mean they're taking detoured routes which could add fifteen to twenty minutes to response time.
He says a number of citizens are asking about the potential delays.
In terms of medical calls, White says there have been some delays, but never a loss of life.
Utica Mayor Kenneth Broome was a Hinds County Bridge Superintendent for 15 years.
The Utica Volunteer Fire Department services an area five miles outside the city limits.
"These bridges are old. They're getting in bad shape," said Broome. "In fact, the county is doing a lot of replacing on these bridges now. As a matter of fact, the one we're looking at now, I can see they're replacing pilings already on it".
The lowered limits mean 18 wheelers weighing up to 25,000 pounds or over 12 tons can not cross the structures.
Two bridges on Traxler Road are rated three and five tons.
On Reedtown Road, the weight limit also decreased to five tons.
Since last year, the Office of State Aid Road Construction has been conducting bridge inspections in all 82 counties. Officials expect it is possible for more bridge closures and lowered limits for safety concerns.
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