Inspectors: Bridges In Need Of "Critical Maintenance"

Welcome to Orchard Road, home of what the state says is the worst bridge in Jackson County. Broken wood, cracked piling, and rusted caps adorn many bridges throughout the county.

According to state records, 25 bridges are in dire need of "critical maintenance." WLOX took those results to county officials, and asked what images of deteriorated bridges mean to public safety.

"At that point I'd have to say let's talk to our road manager," Board of Supervisors President Tim Broussard said.

A scenic ride down Coventry Drive in Jackson County will bring you to another bridge. It was supposed to be repaired in 2006. When we visited the bridge, we found exposed rebar and crumbling concrete. In February, the state rated this bridge at 35 on a 100 point scale. That means it needs to be replaced.

More than 6,000 cars and trucks travel across Pascagoula's Hospital Road bridge every day. But what those drivers don't see is the rotten wood that holds it up. Scott Allen looks at it from his shop's window everyday.

"It's in pretty bad shape," Scott Allen, owner of City Lock Shop, said. "Any minute it can go, the way it feels, the way it shakes the building, the ground being unstable. I think it can only take so much."

He even has a name for it: "Bad Shape Bridge."

This year, it earned only two of 10 points in the substructure category. In other words, it's in "critical" condition too.

"If it fails it's going to be bad news. There are several bridges that come to mind that you're scared to go across," Allen said.

He's right. Remember the Orchard Road Bridge? Its wooden pilings and cracked bulkheads tell the story of another "critical" rating.

The Orchard Road Bridge had the lowest score of all -- 7 out of 100 points. The wooden pilings are so rotten they crumble in your hand. Yet nothing has been done to replace it.

"If something like that is brought to our attention, there's absolutely no reason we would not address it. It's just not that much money, and it's just not that much time," Broussard said.

Broussard also says Jackson County residents should share responsibility.

"Quite honestly, sometimes you'll see 18-wheelers driving across them, you'll see school buses driving across them. A lot of times the public takes responsibility for a bridge. If it's at a low rating that is quite minimal and you're driving a truck or motor home or something like that, the citizens are also taking a part in what goes on in bridge safety," Broussard said.

Jackson County targeted 18 bridges to be replaced this year. Seven still need to be done. Until then, dozens of bridges in Jackson County will remain on a maintenance list, while thousands of drivers travel across them everyday.

Broussard says the county has replaced nearly 70 bridges since 2000.

County Road Manager Joe O'Neal would not talk on camera, but said that the public should not worry about using any of these bridges.