Weight increase could lead to bridge problems, safety concerns - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 02/06/09

Weight increase could lead to bridge problems, safety concerns

By Jon Kalahar

jkalahar@wlbt.net

A state government review of Mississippi's bridges shows over 400 in need of serious repairs or even replacement.

But in the state house of representatives, lawmakers passed a bill that could add to the problem.

The eighteen wheeler transports everything from food to clothing in the state. But one such industry that's shrinking with every passing year is logging.

"They're trying to survive. We're down to 431 loggers in the state of Mississippi and it was because of the fuel," said Rep. Alex Monsour, Jr., (R) Vicksburg.

As extra incentive, lawmakers authored a bill to increase the weight certain truckers can carry, pumping up the total weight from 84 thousand pounds to 88 thousand. More weight means more material truckers can carry, fewer trips and less fuel used.

"These people hadn't come to ask for no million dollar bond package they just ask to throw another log on the trailer," said Rep. J. Shaun Walley, (D) Leakesville.

The downside is what the extra weight will do to already worn out roads and bridges. At M-DOT, Executive Director Butch Brown says the effects will be obvious in the very near future.

"Bridges are gong to be knocked out, school bus routes are going to have to be altered, the safety of those bridges becomes greatly compromised," said Brown.

Still, logging is the second largest industry in the state with an economic impact of 14 billion. For that kind of international business, one lawmakers says he knows what state leaders would do.

"They'd get chapstick and the Governor, the Attorney General and m-d-a, they'd go get on that jet we tried to sell or they'd charter a plan and they'd go over there and kiss their tail all the way back down here to get here to get that many jobs produced here," said Rep. Jack Gadd, (D) Hickory Flat.

The house passed the bill overwhelmingly. It now goes to the state senate for consideration.

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