Popp’s Ferry Bridge operational, but still under repair

The Popp’s Ferry Bridge remains operational for vehicular and marine traffic today, but engineers are continuing to work to repair a control panel that would allow a bridge tender to automatically “lock down” the span after each opening.

The bridge failed to lock down mid-afternoon Wednesday and backed up vehicular and marine for almost 90 minutes. It re-opened to vehicular traffic at 4:20 p.m. and was fully operational shortly before 6 p.m. However, it could only be locked down manually, a process that requires two additional bridge tenders. Technicians also replaced hoses to the bridge’s hydraulics system.

The city has notified the Coast Guard and bridge tenders at area bridges that, until the control panel is repaired, marine traffic must provide one hour’s notice before the draw will be raised.

Mayor A.J. Holloway, meantime, said the incident pointed out the pressing need for an adequate bridge to serve west Biloxi – particularly as an emergency evacuation route.

The Popp’s Ferry Bridge, which was dedicated by Harrison County in 1979, is the main artery into west Biloxi. The bridge carries an average of almost 20,000 vehicles a day and its 32-foot high span must open as many as 10 to 12 times a day for marine traffic, including coal barges that serve Mississippi Power Co.’s Plant Jack Watson.

“This bridge is a vital emergency evacuation route,” Holloway said. “Working with our congressional delegation, we’ve been successful in having $4 million set aside for the environmental work toward to help decide if the best option would be to construct a new bridge or a sister span that would include elevating the height of the draw of the current bridge. But that bill that includes the $4 million is awaiting President Bush’s signature.

“This incident on Wednesday occurred as we were headed into the afternoon commute for many people, and let’s not forget we’re in the middle of hurricane season. That’s what really drives this issue, in my opinion: we need an adequate emergency evacuation route. In a best-case scenario, this current bridge is still going to be a bottleneck, for both vehicular and marine traffic.”

Holloway pointed out that the city is doing its part through the $28 million widening of Popp’s Ferry Road north of the bridge and improvements to the roadway south of the bridge.

Said the mayor: “I still plan on going to Washington — the first week in August, in fact — to continue to make the case for funding for construction.”

To see the mayor’s detailed justification for resolving the bridge issue, click here..