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Swelling Pearl River Puts Damper on $4.5M Historic Bridge Project

Wed July 23, 2003 - Southeast Edition
Maybelle G. Cagle



Continuous flooding of the Pearl River has delayed the renovation of a $4.5-million bridge linking Jackson, MS, with Flowood, MS, in neighboring Rankin County.

Almost daily rains in the Jackson metropolitan area have contributed to the flooding.

“We’ve lost approximately three months due to the river,” said David Trevathan, president of Key Constructors, which was awarded the bridge contract.

Trevathan said completion of the project, which began late 2002, should be around Thanksgiving. The bridge, officially known as the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, (not to be confused with the bridge in Virginia) was built in the 1920s and is included on the National Registry of Historic Places.

“We’ll be glad to see it finished. It will open up the south end of our city,” said Gary Rhoads, mayor of Flowood.

A 2002 traffic count from the Mississippi Department of Transportation showed that between 6,300 and 7,000 cars traveled the bridge daily before it was closed.

Trevathan said approximately 15 men are working 50 to 60 hours a week on the 1,000-ft. (304.8 m) beam bridge.

The equipment, which is owned by Key Constructors, includes two cranes: an American Crane Company 7250 and an American Crane Company 5299. A sub-contractor, Mid East Contractors, Madison, MS, has a Komsatsu 200 excavator and a Cat D5 dozer at the site. Mid-East completed dirt work for the project.

In early July, workers were putting the deck on the new bridge and getting ready to put a base course on the roadway. The existing foundation is being used for the new bridge. Key Constructors did some cosmetic repairs to the bridge’s foundation, which was determined by engineers to be structurally sound.

Trevathan said the bridge is approximately 65 percent complete. The bridge’s original arch is being preserved because of its historical significance. Trevathan said there are two bridges in the state with their original arch. The other bridge, he noted, is a railroad bridge between Bolton and Edwards.

A concrete railing on either side of the bridge is an exact copy of the original. The forms were poured in place.

Trevathan said when the river gets more than 10 ft., it starts to flood the ground beneath the bridge. “It has gotten as high as 35 feet,” he said.

The company’s foreman Bo Graves, oversees day to day operations at the bridge.

Federal grants plus funds from the city of Flowood are paying for the bridge. Additional work also is being done to straighten a curve from the nearby flood levees to the new bridge. Rip-rap was put on either side of the 8-ft. (2.4 m) shoulders of the road to keep it from flooding.

Because of its historical significance, the new bridge had to resemble the old one. “I’m sure it was a wonderful bridge in those days, but parts of it were becoming very unsafe,” said Trevathan.

The new bridge will remain with two lanes, but the lanes will be 2 ft. (.6 m) wider to accommodate today’s larger cars.

Approximately six sub-contractors were used on various aspects of the project such as dirt work and laying asphalt on the adjoining road.

Engineer Jeff Green of Engineering Associates Inc., a division of Pickering Inc. in Flowood, is working with the city on the bridge. He said the deck of the old bridge was removed using concrete saws and hydraulic equipment to break it into manageable pieces.

“The historical aspect of the bridge was the biggest challenge when the project was being designed,” said Green.

He said his firm sought assistance from a New York firm, which has done extensive work on historic structures.

Green noted value engineering proposals reduced the cost of the bridge by approximately $500,000.

“The ideas submitted included cheaper methods of concrete forming for the approach and less expensive methods of handling the modifications to the main piers,” Trevathan added. “This was done while maintaining the original look of the bridge.”

Key Constructors, which has offices in Madison, MS, is licensed to work in the surrounding states. The company was started in 1975 and is owned by Charles Webster.