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Bridge work to close lanes on I-20 at Vicksburg

The bridge immediately connects Vicksburg with rural Madison Parish, Louisiana, but is part of a vital corridor running across the South. (The Trucker file photo)

The Associated Press

7/9/2014

VICKSBURG, Miss.  — Bridge work will limit the Interstate 20 crossing over the Mississippi River at Vicksburg to one lane each way for six weeks, beginning Wednesday.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development has hired a Missouri contractor to jack up the cantilever span off its piers and reset bearings that are being stressed by tiny movements of the river bottom.

Susan Stafford, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana agency, said officials aren't sure how much of a traffic jam the work will cause.

When officials have to close the bridge for inspections after barges hit the span, traffic snarls can stretch for miles. And detour routes via Natchez and Greenville mean round trips of about 150 miles.

Typically, 28,000 vehicles a day use the bridge, Stafford said.

The bridge immediately connects Vicksburg with rural Madison Parish, Louisiana, but is part of a vital corridor running across the South.

Louisiana officials say they will place warning signs 5 miles and 2 miles back from the river. Mississippi officials say they will also use message boards and warn people online and via the state's 511 travel information line.

The work is necessary because a small piece of river bottom which holds two of the bridge's piers is moving toward the Louisiana side of the river, and slightly downriver. So far, the expansion joints that allow the bridge to grow and shrink with temperature have tolerated roughly 9 inches of westward movement. The downriver movement is maybe only an inch, but much more of a worry for engineers, Mississippi officials said last year. The bearings aren't designed to allow upriver and downriver movement, only expansion and contraction that moves the span from bank to bank.

During the project, scheduled to run through Aug. 21, the eastbound and westbound outside lanes will be blocked off. Wide loads will be restricted to 18 feet, and may have brief restrictions of 16 and one-half feet. Warning signs will be used on days when the 16-and-one-half-foot restriction is in place.

OCCI Inc. is being paid $2.3 million for the project and Stafford said its crews will work 24 hours a day to speed the work. The lanes are being blocked off to house trucks and cranes, Stafford said, although much of the work will take place underneath the bridge's road deck.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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