Bryant orders 83 bridges closed in emergency declaration

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Rogelio V. Solis, AP

“These bridges have been deemed unsafe for the traveling public,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement about his order to close 83 bridges.

Gov. Phil Bryant on Tuesday declared a state of emergency, issuing a proclamation that orders the Mississippi Department of Transportation to immediately close 83 city and county bridges that have been judged deficient by federal National Bridge Inspection Standards and the Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction.

The announcement comes almost a week after the U.S. Department of Transportation notified the state that the Federal Highway Administration is concerned that the bridges remaining open constitutes an unacceptable safety risk requiring immediate federal, state and local action, the statement said.

The bridges expected to close are in Amite, Carroll, Clarke, Greene, Hinds, Humphreys, Itawamba, Jasper, Jones, Lauderdale, Leake, Lincoln, Newton, Pike, Smith and Wayne counties. The Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction has published a list of the 83 bridges and their locations.

Mississippi Department of Transportation spokesman Jason Scott said Tuesday the department does not have immediate details on what the proclamation means for MDOT.

“We’re just hearing about this executive order ourselves,” Scott said.

In a letter to Bryant dated April 5, the Federal Highway Administration recommended 378 bridges for immediate closure. Those bridges derived from a March 2017 action plan formed by administration, MDOT and the Office of State Aid Road Construction to address National Bridge Inspection Standards compliance issues concerning the proper inspection and closure of unsafe bridges.

These bridges Bryant ordered closed will remain so until they are in compliance with federal and state laws, regulations and standards. The proclamation would apply to other bridges deemed deficient in the future, the statement said.

“These bridges have been deemed unsafe for the traveling public,” Gov. Bryant said in a statement. “Keeping them open constitutes an unnecessary risk to public safety, violates the corrective action plan agreed upon by the state and federal government and jeopardizes federal infrastructure funds Mississippi receives.”

According to the Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction, there were 542 closed county and local bridges in the state as of Tuesday morning.