Governor Bryant discusses bridge issues

Last week Mississippi bridges caused Governor Phil Bryant to declare a state of emergency.

Governor Bryant signed a proclamation declaring a state of emergency that orders the Mississippi Department of Transportation to immediately close 106 locally owned bridges that have been deemed “deficient” by the federal National Bridge Inspection Standards and the Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction.

The bridges slated for immediate closure are in Amite, Carroll, Clarke, Greene, Hinds, Humphreys, Itawamba, Jasper, Jones, Lauderdale, Leake, Lincoln, Newton, Pike, Smith and Wayne counties. The proclamation also applies to bridges that are found to be deficient in the future.

Earlier this week, Governor Bryant discussed the issues of the bridges. While some attempted to say that Governor Bryant had ulterior motives for closing the bridges, he clarified that it’s all about ensuring the safety of Mississippi drivers.

“The truth of the matter is we’ve been dealing with this for over a year now but it’s been dealt with through the department of transportation, who has little, if no control over county bridges,” said Governor Bryant. “These bridges are owned by the county and they should be maintained by the county, so the counties and maybe the supervisors who might be unhappy should realize that this is their responsibility.”

Governor Bryant said he received a call from the Secretary of Transportation telling him to close the bridges because they are dangerous and they have had independent inspector engineers look at them. She told him that Mississippi would lose federal funds if the bridges were not closed. He added that not closing these bridges would eventually cause more issues for the state.

“If you think closing some county bridges is difficult, and it is, imagine if we had to stop work on 55 North or 49 South or 55 South,” Governor Bryant said. “If we had to lay off a great number of employees at the Department of Transportation and they had to go home unemployed, this would have a tremendous detrimental effect on Mississippi.”

Governor Bryant said the solution is trying to put enough revenue into the county to be able to replace these bridges, which he is working on.

“The good news is the legislator put $50 million into the bond bill and we’re working with our bonds attorneys here in London to see what we may have to do to issue those bonds, then we can put those dollars into repair in replacement of these bridges,” Governor Bryant said. “So I didn’t just close them and say, ‘well that’s the end of that’, we’re finding solutions.”

Governor Bryant said he hopes to issue these bonds perhaps earlier than the first of July.