Popp’s Ferry bridge re-opens after barge collision

The Popp’s Ferry Bridge, a north-south connector used by nearly 20,000 motorists a day, was closed for nearly four hours today after a tugboat pushing three barges struck the bridge’s bumper system just before 1 this afternoon.

The two-lane bridge re-opened to vehicular traffic at 4:45 p.m. today but remains closed to marine traffic. And the bridge will close to motorists again Wednesday from 5 to 7:30 a.m. for further inspection.

The Miss Laurie, pushing barges carrying crushed rock, gravel and construction equipment, collided with the bridge, causing what is believed to be minor damage.

Shortly after the accident, bridge inspectors with city contractor Neel-Schaffer were on site assessing the bridge from above and below the water.

“At this time, it is believed that the barge rammed the timber bumper system before hitting the bridge itself, just below the tender’s house,” said City Engineering Department Director Christy LeBatard.  “We believe the bumper system bore the brunt of the impact. We have found no structural damage, but we have a diver assessing the bridge below the surface of the water to make sure.”

The 42-year-old bridge, a major north-south corridor in West Biloxi, is a three-quarter-mile, two-lane low-level bridge with a span. It’s used by West Biloxi residents living north and south of the Bay and, as part of Popp’s Ferry Road, connects I-10 at Cedar Lake Road to U.S. 90 via Beauvoir Road.

A tug pushing five barges rammed the bridge in 2009, causing a 60-feet section of the bridge to collapse into Back Bay, and part of the bridge’s fender system was destroyed in 2013 when it was hit by a tug boat pushing barges.

For years, the city and motorists have sought funding for a new, higher, more dependable bridge, and some design work has been done, and a federally-required environmental assessment has been completed. However, construction and driving on a new bridge are still years away. The current bridge was built in 1978 and was transferred to the City of Biloxi some 20 years later.
Facebook: See video from shortly after the incident today
See renderings of the planned new Popp’s Ferry bridge
See photos of the damage in 2009
2004: Making the case for a new bridge