JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A portion of Hwy. 57 in Jackson County is closed down indefinitely after a Tuesday morning accident. It's a reasonable bet that in the 58 years the Red Creek Bridge's truss structure has been standing, it hasn't seen a morning quite like this.
"We're in an unsafe condition right now, because those members, they've been mangled. They've been destroyed. Some of them are broken in half," said Jason Winders, the area engineer for the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
Winders knew he had his work cut out for him when he arrived on the scene.
A track hoe was being hauled south on Hwy. 57 when it slammed into the bridge just south of the George County line. The collision knocked the track hoe off its trailer, causing all kinds of damage; snapping steel beams and puncturing holes in the bridge deck.
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality was also on the scene dealing with fuel that was spilling out of the track hoe and into the creek flowing under the bridge.
It was clear to the officials on the scene that the bridge wouldn't be opening up anytime soon.
"Right now, it would be very unsafe to load this bridge with any more load as far as traffic," said Winders.
So, traffic will be detoured. In the meantime, the bridge will be thoroughly inspected.
"We'll run a complete analysis of this bridge. That analysis will break it down as far as costs, what has to be repaired, how we're going to repair it," said Winders.
The inspection could show MDOT that the best course is to demolish and rebuild. Fortunately, there's already some headway in that direction.
"We've got a set of plans in place to build a brand new bridge off to the east here," said Winders.
This accident comes after a recent public outreach by MDOT offering the bridge, which was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, to anyone willing to relocate or restore the structure off-site. But, those plans have obviously changed.
MDOT said it could be at least a month before it's determined whether or not the bridge will have to be demolished. Until then, the best detour for northbound travelers will likely be Vestry Rd. to Red Creek Rd. to Broome School Rd. to Old Hwy. 57 and back to Hwy. 57. For southbound travelers, the detour will simply follow that in reverse.