JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Phase one of the I-40 bridge repair in Memphis is now complete, but it could be months before the bridge is safe to fully reopen. It’s been shut down since inspectors found a crack.
The case has put a spotlight on bridge safety around the country and in Mississippi, there are several bridges of concern.
The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Mississippi a “D+” for bridges on its infrastructure report card. Out of more than 17,000 state and local bridges, 8.7 percent were in poor condition in 2019. Just to put it all in perspective the country’s infrastructure got a “C-“
Repairing or replacing bridges comes right down to money.
“We have somewhat of a crisis and challenge with our bridges. We have two sets of bridges, obviously. We have our state bridges and county bridges. Our county bridges are more of a problem for us because we have so many of them that have been inspected and they have deficiencies, and the counties don’t have money to take care of them,” said MDOT Central District Commissioner Willie Simmons.
Simmons said the lack of funding goes back to the gas tax not being raised since 1987.
“$89 million was put into the state program that was created in 2018. That $89 million is now going through the process with the special commission we have. Sometime between now around July 1, we will be making a decision on which bridges will be funded out of the $89 million,” said Simmons.
They’ll have to figure out what each county gets and how much. The commissioner said the money laid out in Biden’s infrastructure plan just isn’t enough for Mississippi.
“We need more than $300 million to take care of Interstate 20 and adding a lane and another $300 million for Highway 27. The formula President Biden has in place for funding Department of Transportation. Again, $1 billion, I just spent $600 million and that’s just a conservative figure, and I haven’t spent any on money on I-55, adding a lane going north on I-55 and then you take highway 61.”
The list goes on with many projects needed and he hopes the Magnolia State isn’t forgotten in Congress.