GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A driver on Lorraine Road Tuesday morning rolled his eyes in disbelief. "Your tax dollars at work," he joked, noting the shutdown of the Lorraine Road bridge at the Biloxi River would make a short drive to school each morning a lot longer, and a lot more chaotic.
The Lorraine Road bridge connects Biloxi to Gulfport. Because of its condition, replacing that bridge has been discussed for years. Yet, Gulfport, Biloxi and Harrison County could never reach a compromise about how much each entity would pay for the repair work.
On Monday, engineers closed the bridge indefinitely. They noticed two of the vertical structure support beams under the bridge were leaning. So, they shut down the two lane road for safety reasons.
Gulfport's Director of Engineering is Kris Riemann. He says road closed signs had to go up after an inspection report detected the piling issued. "We anticipate the bridge being closed at least long enough for a re-inspection of all of the structures to be completed, but it could be as much as a year if the full replacement is needed for the bridge," said Riemann.
The cost to rebuild the bridge is roughly $9.6 million. WLOX News has learned nearly half of that amount will come from Gulf Regional Planning's assistance. Another three million dollars is linked to state aid. The remaining cost is to be split between Harrison County, Gulfport and Biloxi. Leaders in the two cities admit they're still bickering about how their repair bills should be divided.
"Funding will be discussed tomorrow night for the city of Gulfport at the budget meeting," said Riemann.
City officials say they have no idea how long it's going to take to rebuild this bridge, but it's going to be very inconvenient for a lot of people.
According to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, nearly 5,000 cars travel the bridge each day. One of those drivers is Michelle Barr. She wishes she would have been warned earlier about the bridge being shut down. "It's going to take about 15 minutes to get home when usually it would take about five to get down the road," said Barr.
With school starting back soon, she also worries bus drivers will have some difficulty with their routes. "My kids won't be affected by it because they stop on the other side, but I know for sure I have friends down here who have kids that they drive over the bridge to Woolmarket School."