Overnight bridge work aimed at preventing future traffic nightmares

Overnight bridge work aimed at preventing future traffic nightmares

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Nearly 33,000 drivers rely on the Wilkes Bridge every day to get over the Industrial Seaway. That's according to a 2012 traffic study. But the bridge isn't always reliable. Five months ago, it was stuck in the open position for 11 hours, and that wasn't the first time there's been a problem with the bridge.

"It is frustrating," driver Joe Micely said. "It seems like they open it up and then they can't get it back down."

Roosevelt Warren said, "It takes a while for them to let it back down."

According to Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), the bridge's break system has failed twice in the past 13 months, causing the bridge to be stuck open and leading to traffic troubles.

"The last time I remember like that it was stuck for 30 minutes or so, and then I turned around and left," Gulfport resident Cindy Coffey said. "Where we live over here off East Taylor, you have to go all the way around and it's just very inconvenient."

When the bridge was shut down for 11 hours in May, MDOT workers were forced to manually lower the bridge.

"This specific bridge has three separate motors. It has an electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical motor, therefore it takes a little more time to identify the issue and find a solution to the problem," MDOT Public Information Representative Michael Flood said.

Flood said routine inspections are performed on the bridge to try and catch any problems before they result in traffic nightmares.

"We are continuously doing preventative maintenance work to help limit these few occasions it does happen," Flood said.

During a recent inspection, engineers noticed four bolts on one of the barings were worn down. The bridge will be closed Wednesday evening between 10 and midnight so those four bolts can be replaced.

While preventative maintenance is important, drivers hope one day a more permanent solution is found so they won't have to cross their fingers every time the bridge spans are opened.

"I think they need to go ahead and do that, make that work," one driver said.

"That would be a good thing," Warren said.

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