Residents hopes to keep bridges closed dashed with work to get under way soon

By ANTHONY WARREN,

All good things must come to an end, and for residents in some Northside neighborhoods, the quiet streets associated with temporary bridge closures will soon be a distant memory.

Contractors are expected to begin work on the Cavalier Drive replacement project sometime in October.

And on September 24, the city of Jackson is expected to open bids on the Hawthorn Drive bridge replacement project.

Meanwhile, some residents have voiced their support for vacating the Belmont Street bridge in Belhaven.

News that work could soon begin on the Cavalier structure is bittersweet for Jackson attorney Philip Thomas, who has said the closure there has made the street safer for pedestrians and kids.

However, he understands that the bridge does need to be reopened.

“It wouldn’t be ideal to close it, for police and fire,” he said. “The fire truck has to back up and turn around. There’s no cul-de-sac.”

He said other vehicles that travel down Cavalier also have to back up and turn around, using neighbors’ driveways.

The bridge has been closed since April 2018, following inspections by the Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction.

It was one of four bridges on the Northside closed at the time, after inspections determined the bridge was unsafe to drive.

 

“You wouldn’t think we’d still be getting people doing that. But when a vehicle comes down the street you don’t recognize, you know they will have to turnaround,” he said. “It happens every single day to this day.”

The Cavalier structure is located near Wood Dale Drive. It runs over a tributary of Eubanks Creek.

Traffic had gotten worse on Cavalier in recent years, following the closure of Montrose Circle at the I-55 frontage road.

Since then, the street has been used as a major cut-through between Wood Dale and Old Canton Road.

However, not everyone is happy with the bridge’s closure. “the people who have kids want it to remain closed. People who don’t have kids want it to be opened back up,” he said. “it’s not unanimous on the street.”

In August, the Jackson City Council awarded a $214,902 contract to Utility Constructors to repair it. Work will include replacing the timber pilings underneath it with a box culvert.

Timber piles are the wooden poles used to hold the bridge in place.

Jackson Engineering Manager Charles Williams said installing the box culvert is less expensive than replacing the pilings.

Public works was planning to schedule a pre-construction meeting with the contractors to discuss the project. The meeting had not been set at press time. The work is expected to take 60 days to complete, weather pending.

Hawthorn also was closed following the 2018 state aid inspections.

The bridge is located in the street’s 3000 block, between Sherwood and Robin Drives. With that structure, inspectors also discovered “issues … with timber piles, headwalls and/or other timber components.”

Headwalls help maintain the road formations around the bridge and prevent erosion.

The city began advertising for bids for the project recently, unwelcome news to Northsider John Sewell.

Sewell and his family live next to the bridge and have especially enjoyed its closure, going as far as using one of the “bridge out” structures as a makeshift volleyball net.

He said residents on the north side of the bridge have been inconvenienced, but with all due respect to those individuals, he’d like the structure remain blocked off.

“I’d rather see the roads fixed than the bridge,” he said. “With all due respect to the neighbors on the north side of the bridge who have been frustrated, we continue to enjoy cars not riding up and down the street.”

While the Cavalier and Hawthorn projects are moving forward, the city has yet to determine what to do with the Belmont bridge.

That bridge was closed earlier this year, also because of structural issues.

Some residents on Nextdoor have recommended closing the bridge permanently, citing a decrease in traffic on Piedmont Street. The bridge is located between Piedmont and St. Mary Street.

One-percent commissioner Pete Perry also broached the idea at a recent one-percent oversight meeting.

Ward Seven Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay said any decision to close the bridge would have to be signed off on by the police and fire department.

“Any time we consider permanently closing a street, we must first consult with police and fire,” she said. “Maintaining a good traffic flow for emergency response is first priority.”

At its meeting in August, one-percent commissioners directed public works to determine how a closure there would impact response times.

No update was given at the board’s September meeting.

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