Wilkes drawbridge reopens to traffic, but repair work continues - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Wilkes drawbridge reopens to traffic, but repair work continues

The Wilkes drawbridge on Cowan Road in Gulfport reopened to traffic around 3:30pm Wednesday. The Wilkes drawbridge on Cowan Road in Gulfport reopened to traffic around 3:30pm Wednesday.
A problem with the hydraulics caused one section of the span to get stuck in the up position for nearly eleven hours. A problem with the hydraulics caused one section of the span to get stuck in the up position for nearly eleven hours.
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Wednesday afternoon, cars were crossing the Wilkes drawbridge on Cowan Road in Gulfport once again, but the problem is not yet fixed. A problem with the hydraulics caused one section of the span to get stuck in the up position for nearly eleven hours Wednesday. The bridge closure left many drivers confused and frustrated.

The warning bell and electronic signs notified drivers to take detours around the Wilkes drawbridge. Yet throughout the day, many drivers had no clue the span was even closed.

"I'm not sure what's going on," said Ashley Redmond of Gulfport.

When we told her the bridge was closed, she replied, "I did not know that and I need to pick up my daughter from school."

"We're just heading out of town and thought it was a quick way. It's just a bad time to have it closed," said another driver.

Car after car drove up to the draw, only to find that they were stuck.

"We were going to the end of Lorraine Road here, but it's still broke down huh? We'll just, I guess, go turn around," said Bill Buchanan of Gulfport.

"GPS told us to go this way, so we're trying to go this way. I guess we'll turn around as soon as everybody else gets out of the way," said Carren Miller, who was visiting from Houma, LA.

It happened around 4:30am, when the drawbridge opened for a boat to pass through. One section wouldn't come down. MDOT engineers suspected a failure in the electric switch that operates the hydraulic system.

"The bridge has been undergoing some upgrades over the past year. That involves changing out parts and equipment inside it. We think it may have been an issue with one of the parts that was installed," said MDOT Area Engineer Gabe Faggard.

MDOT called in the Louisiana company that's been upgrading the bridge to troubleshoot.

The bridge closure was more than just an inconvenience for Jane Ngo. She had to park her car on the north side and walk across the span to open her store on the south side.

"I feel bad. The reason, I lost customers and I lost one day of business. Yes, we're closed today. No customers come by," said Ngo.

Drivers like Ashley Redmond felt the same frustration.

"I wasn't aware of this, so I guess I need to watch the news more often," said Redmond.

MDOT crews, with help from Biloxi Public Works employees, had to manually close the bridge.   They are waiting for a part to come in and hoping to have the problem fixed by Thursday morning. They will continue to conduct tests on the bridge, so expect traffic to stall at times. Also remember, the bridge cannot open for marine traffic.         

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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