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Flyover named in honor of veterans

JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Traffic moves along U.S. 61 past the new Veterans Memorial Bridge in Natchez on Tuesday afternoon.
JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Traffic moves along U.S. 61 past the new Veterans Memorial Bridge in Natchez on Tuesday afternoon.

NATCHEZ — What do veterans and bridges have in common?

“Concrete and steel,” Vietnam veteran Tommy “Blackie” Williams said. “That’s what all bridges are made of, and that’s just the way veterans are.”

Williams presented a resolution to the Natchez Board of Aldermen in November to name the flyover bridge currently under construction at the intersection of D’Evereux and Seargent S. Prentiss drives the Veterans Memorial Bridge in honor of all Miss-Lou veterans.

JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Along with laying asphalt at both ends of the bridge, crews have yet to add concrete rails and lighting fixtures to the new Veterans Memorial Bridge in Natchez.
JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Along with laying asphalt at both ends of the bridge, crews have yet to add concrete rails and lighting fixtures to the new Veterans Memorial Bridge in Natchez.

The board approved the resolution, and it was combined with other similar requests across the state in the form of House Bill 225, which becomes law July 1. The law allows the Mississippi Highway Patrol and the Mississippi Department of Transportation to decide together to name a segment of any public street, road, highway or interstate in honor of law enforcement officers or military heroes.

Williams said he thought it would be best to not name the bridge after one particular person.

“This is for all the veterans — not just one person,” Williams said. “Anybody who is coming through Natchez will see it and know what it stands for.”

The new law also allows distinctive markers — one at each end — to be placed on the bridge.

Janet Sullivan, assistant to MDOT commissioner Tom King, said a dedication ceremony would be hosted at the VFW Post 9573 in Natchez once construction is complete.

MDOT construction engineer Ken Morris said final projects on the bridge are under way.

“They’re working to finish the concrete handrails along the bridge, and then they’ll be putting up the lighting structures,” Morris said. “That’s some of the last stuff you do, so it’s finally getting close to being finished.”

Construction of the flyover was scheduled to wrap up in September 2012, but the project was delayed because part of the concrete did not set properly and scaffolding fell on part of the bridge deck.

Morris said rain also played a factor in the delays but that recent weather conditions have helped the crews.

“Anytime you get dry, warm weather it makes all the materials easier to work with,” Morris said. “I’m excited for it to be done.”

One of the major objectives of the $19.7 million flyover, MDOT officials have said, is to direct 18-wheeler truck traffic over the intersection instead of forcing truck drivers to make a hard left turn. The flyover is also expected to shorten delay times at the intersection.

Morris said he anticipated construction to be finished by July with traffic traveling on the bridge by September.

“All of that is going to depend on the weather and other conditions, but basically now they’re just doing some of the last few things needed to get done,” Morris said.