Delta Council urges immediate action in highway ‘crisis’ 9/16/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Delta Council urges immediate action in highway ‘crisis’

The Delta Council group has adopted a resolution urging the Mississippi Congressional Delegation, Members of the Mississippi Legislature, the Office of the Governor, and MDOT to treat Highway 6 bridge replacement as an emergency relief operation since the major east-west corridor controls the movement of commerce and economic activity in the Northwest part of the State.

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Butch Scipper, a farmer and vice chairman of the Delta Council’s Transportation Committee who serves as chancery court clerk in Quitman County presided over a meeting convened by the Delta Council in Clarksdale, Thursday to identify a short-term alternative for this year’s harvest.

Hundreds of truckloads of grain are being detoured from Mississippi Highway 6 between Batesville and Clarksdale through strict enforcement of weight limits that have been posted for some while as the harvest season just gets underway.

“Simply put, we have a permit to load grain in trucks to a level of 84,000 pounds, but the bridges along Highway 6 are posted at weight limits that are far below that capacity because they are more than 50 years old and deteriorating,” stated Scipper.

According to the Delta Farm Press, besides seeking an immediate alternative, Scipper and other Delta Council leaders are also stressing the necessity of an emergency and expedited schedule for bridge replacements throughout Highway 6. 

Replacement of structurally deficient bridges along Highway 6 is estimated to cost $50 million and to move these projects into an expedited schedule environmental documentation would have to be hurriedly completed, right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation would have to be implemented and the design-construction phase would need to be advanced at once, according to the Delta Farm Press.

“This is a situation of crisis dimensions for this part of the State, and it is a terrific blow to the local economy when any business must incur the added expense of traveling extra miles to get their goods and services to the market place,” added Scipper.

Willie Huff who is chief of enforcement for the Mississippi Department of Transportation, attended the meeting and explained the rationale behind stepped-up enforcement stating Federal Highway Administration officials have threatened to withdraw funding from highway projects in the state unless the state addresses the problem of unsafe bridges along Highway 6 and in other sections of the state.

(Much of this story concerning last Thursday’s meeting was compiled from a story in The Delta Farm Press)