Bridge inspectors look for damage on Lorraine Road structure

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Three engineers spent the day Tuesday inspecting the Lorraine Road bridge over the Biloxi River. That crossing was closed to traffic July 29th due to safety concerns. And these bridge inspectors will determine whether that structure needs repairs or replacement.

Professional engineers are checking out every wooden piling and concrete support on this aging structure.

"We look at everything," said engineer Aaron Immel. "You never really know until you put all the pieces together."

An elevated platform atop a 21 foot skiff provides the perfect access.

"Rather than put a snooper, a truck on top to get access underneath, our company has this boat that allows us to get elevated to everything we need to see," Immel explained.

The tools are fairly basic: Hammers, drills, levels and a camera. What's more important are the trained eyes and ears of these bridge inspectors that can see or hear possible structural problems.

"We're sounding all the piles, obviously they're timber piles. To hear any decay in them. If we find some decay, then we'll drill into them to get an extent and measurement of decay," said Immel.

These professional inspectors know exactly what to look for on this structure. They conduct similar check-ups on bridges across the southeast.

"We do this in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and all over," said Immel.

Many people have been inconvenienced by the closure of this bridge. Some 5,000 motorists a day use this crossing over the Biloxi River. But should the bridge need to be replaced, they will have to prepare for a much greater inconvenience, since a new bridge project could take up to 18 months.

The final report from this trio of inspectors will determine what's next.

"We'll put together recommendations based on what we find today," said Immel.

A new bridge could cost around $10 million. State aid would pay for about half. The remainder would have to be funded by Harrison County and the cities of Biloxi and Gulfport.

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