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Jackson Street project begins

The dozen or so motorists who tried to weave their way across the Jackson Street Bridge near Maria Avenue Tuesday better find a reliable detour.

Because, according to Kacy Mims of Pelham-based Alabama Bridge Builders, it’s going to be another 30 days before they can cut across the curved bridge to reach Westside Elementary School and other locations in the Maria area.

After months of discussion by the Demopolis City Council, Mims, Ciro Rivera and Dale and Brad Pate took the bridge out of commission Tuesday morning.

Around noon, Mims puttered under the bridge in a jon-boat, cooperating with Rivera and the Pates up above to erect a scaffolding beneath the bridge from which Dale Pate could start reinforcing the decayed crossing.

“It had a lot of problems,” Pate said, pointing to an uneven joint in the road surface. “The bearings had rusted, which let the two parts separate.”

The beams were rusted and detereorated under the roadway, he added. Pate’s job will be melt and forge the bridge supports into their original shape and consistency using a 130-amp arc-welder and OxyAcedelene torches that reach temperatures between 1,800 and 2,000 degrees.

The bridge, Mims said, could only support around 3 tons of weight before the repairs. But the industry that drives that side of Demopolis demanded a more secure river crossing.

“We’re working to increase the capacity of the bridge,” Mims said, estimating that trucks hauling as much as 40 tons would be able to bounce down Jackson Street once repairs are complete.

“And it’ll get a new paint job, too,” Mims said. “And it ought to last for another 40 years, I hope.”

Mims company, he said, builds or repairs around 10 bridges each year, taking in more than $25 million for their efforts.

In addition to the Jackson Street project, Alabama Bridge Builders are working along U.S. Highway 80 to build relief bridges to support the highway’s continued expansion toward Mississippi.