Harrison County officials faced a tough decision on Wednesday. Later this year the county plans to tear down and rebuild the Bayou Portage Bridge in Pass Christian. But officials say they recently discovered a problem with the current bridge that could cause it to be shut down ahead of schedule. County workers noticed an unfamiliar sound coming from the drawbridge and became concerned.
"It's 75 years old and when you get movement occurring that's not typical and you get popping that's occurring that's not typical in a normal operation, you're concerned that the fatigue on the steel might be the point it would create a failure, and we might have the bridge fall down," Sand Beach Director Bobby Weaver said.
The county asked an engineer to inspect the bridge, determine what was wrong, and tell them what, if anything, needed to be done about it. Weaver says the engineer's findings could have closed the bridge. That would mean motorists would have to find an alternate route sooner than expected. But fixing the problem would mean investing taxpayers' dollars in a bridge that wouldn't exist in a few months.
"What we were looking at is the amount of cost that might be associated with repairing the bridge between now and the time they actually remove the bridge," Weaver said. "We don't want to spend the taxpayers' money unwisely so we wanted to make sure what was wrong, what could we do and was it something that would be economical for a short duration."
In the end, the engineer said the problem wasn't worth fixing, and that a little extra maintenance should keep it in working order until the time comes to tear it down.
Weaver says on Monday the engineers will ask Supervisors to go ahead and award the contract to build the new bridge. He says work should begin in August or late September and will take about a year and a half to complete.
When the bridge is torn down, drivers will have to head east to Menge Avenue or west to Highway 603 to find another north-south route.