Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Upright steel beams had been driven into the earth along the north side of the Tallahatchie River bridge on Tuesday. On the south side, a pile driver was completing the work on the south side. Once the upright beam are in place, cross beams will be placed under the bridge to reinforce the aging timber beams while a new bridge in under construction. The Panolian photos by John Howell

MDOT project engineer Will Neal (from left), Eutaw Construction superintendent Chris Stephenson and other personnel review construction details at the bridge site.

Work progresses on reinforcement of river bridge

By John Howell
The project to reinforce the Tallahatchie River bridge on Highway 6 sufficiently to carry trucks up to 84,000 pounds is on schedule for completion by September, Mississippi Department of Transportion’s (MDOT) project engineer Will Neal said Tuesday.
During a visit to the bridge construction site, Neal pointed to steel I-beams that had been driven into the earth beside the bridge’s north side as a pile-driving crane pounded the beams along the bridge’s south side.
Once the upright beams are in place,  crossbeams will be placed under the bridge as reinforcement for the deteriorating wooden beams that have supported the weight of overhead traffic since the bridge’s construction in 1938-’39.
Concern about the deteriorated condition of the bridge came to a head in September, 2014 when MDOT began strict enforcement of posted limits on the river bridge as well as about a dozen smaller bridges between Batesville and Clarksdale. The maximum posted weight was 44,000 pounds, far under the weight of loaded 18-wheelers that traverse the east/west corridor across north Mississippi.
Detour bridges are under construction adjacent to the smaller bridges to allow demolition of the older structures. Demolition had begun Tuesday on a small bridge in Quitman County over a waterway known as the Panola/Quitman ditch. At other waterways, including Bobo Bayou, work on detour bridges is nearing completion.
The Tallahatchie River bridge will remain in service until its permanent replacement is completed sometime next year. Construction of the new river bridge just south and downstream of the present structure will begin once the present bridge’s reinforcement and relocation of the City of Batesville gas line has been completed.
The strict weight enforcement in 2014 came just as farm harvests were being moved by truck to grain elevators and other destinations, forcing farm products over circuitous and lengthy detours.
At that time MDOT Chief of Enforcement Willie Huff told Delta Council representatives that the Federal Highway Administration had threatened to withdraw its highway funding from the state if it did not address unsafe bridges.

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