GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The cost of a new Lorraine Road Bridge over the Biloxi River needs to be divided three ways, equally. That was the clear message Tuesday from Harrison County supervisors, who took issue with a proposed "interlocal" agreement that had the county paying much more for a new bridge than the cities of Gulfport and Biloxi.
The old bridge has been closed to traffic since late July because of safety concerns brought on by the deteriorating condition of the aging span.
"When you look at the condition of the bridge, it definitely needs to be replaced," said Supervisor Connie Rockco.
But the issue of paying for a new bridge hasn't been settled yet. Supervisors balked at a proposed agreement that has the county paying $169,000 more than the shares paid by Gulfport and Biloxi. That's why they amended it.
"To call for an equal share of the expenses between all three entities," said Supervisor Kim Savant, as he made the motion.
The total cost of the replacement bridge project is roughly $9.7 million. Once you factor in the state and federal funding, the total obligated to the two cities and Harrison County is roughly $2.5 million.
"Basically what the board authorized was an agreement to be executed provided the three entities, Biloxi, Gulfport and the county, would share equally in the cost," said board attorney Tim Holleman.
"Once this interlocal agreement is signed, it will move forward expeditiously. And we're going to be able to keep the existing bridge open to vehicular traffic, depending on the efficiency ratings, almost until completion of the new bridge," said Supervisor Savant.
City of Gulfport engineer Kris Riemann told WLOX News the re-opening of the old bridge to traffic is news to him. He's still awaiting the final inspection report from Volkert Engineering, which thoroughly inspected the old bridge in mid-August.
Once the three entities agree on a final interlocal agreement, bids for the new bridge construction could go out early next year.
Garner Russell Engineering has already drawn-up project plans for the new bridge, which will be built south of the old bridge.
Harrison County will be the lead agency overseeing the bridge construction once the final inter-local agreement is adopted by the three governments.