ABBEVILLE – The new $28 million Highway 7 bridge spanning the Tallahatchie River opened Friday, Feb. 6 without fanfare.<>
MDOT and L&A Contracting Co. crews moved barriers that had kept traffic directed to the old roadway and unceremoniously redirected vehicles over the new elevated span that stands a few yards west of the former route.
“This new bridge will safely carry any loads that are legal in Mississippi,” said District Engineer Mitch Turner, adding that normal loads are limited to 80,000 pounds, while harvest loads may be up to 84,000 pounds.
Drivers will also be able to haul wider and higher loads. The new crossing provides 44 feet of clear roadway and unlimited overhead clearance, accommodating farm equipment, construction equipment and mobile homes that previously had to be rerouted. By comparison, the circa 1953 bridge offered only 24 feet of roadway width inside its through-truss design and only a 13.8-feet vertical clearance.
Water clearance under the new bridge is approximately eight feet higher than its predecessor, making it unsusceptible to the level of flooding that closed Highway 7 across the Tallahatchie for several days in 1991.
Crews will continue to finish details on the new bridge, and motorists should expect lane closures during the next several days for this work to be completed, said MDOT spokesman Jason Scott.
According to MDOT figures, the Highway 7 Tallahatchie crossing averages some 5,600 vehicles per day. The old bridge was deemed “functionally obsolete” since the late 1980s and was found to be “structurally deficient” in 2010.
Biggs General Contracting Inc. of Brighton, Tennessee, is the subcontractor for demolition of the old bridge. A company spokesman said crews are mobilizing to travel to the site and could be begin dismantling the structure this week – a piece-by-piece removal, which will not involve explosives.
If water levels in Sardis Lake and the Tallahatchie River allow, demolition is expected to take some six weeks. The adjacent Mississippi Central Railroad bridge is not expected to be affected by the work.