Phone app taking drivers on unnecessary detour away from Mississippi River bridge

Published 9:58 pm Thursday, July 13, 2017


NATCHEZ — People who use an Apple iPhone for directions discovered this week the trip from Natchez to Vidalia suddenly became 2 hours and 30 minutes longer than usual.

After the Mississippi Department of Transportation closed the westbound bridge for maintenance and repairs, the popular Maps application that comes standard with iPhones is giving users a long and unnecessary detour.

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The application has been directing drivers away from the still open span of the Natchez-to-Vidalia bridge and instead to the bridges dozens of miles out of the way in Vicksburg to the north or St. Francisville to the south.

The iPhone app Thursday afternoon recommended the following three trips to Vidalia from downtown Natchez:

  • A 2-hour-and-49-minute trip from Natchez to Vicksburg to Tallulah, La., to Vidalia through Waterproof and Clayton.
  • A 2-hour-and-53-minute trip from Natchez to the bridge south of St. Francisville back to Vidalia.
  • A 3-hour-and-18-minute trip from Natchez to Vicksburg to Delhi, La., back to Vidalia through Sicily Island and Clayton.

The iPhone app lists the westbound bridge as being closed from June 11, 2017 to June 10, 2018.

The app recommends a much shorter 8-minute trip from Vidalia to Natchez, including a drive across the eastbound Mississippi River bridge with delays.

Both the Google Maps and Mapquest websites continued to direct drivers across the Mississippi River bridge into Louisiana Thursday afternoon.

Natchez Director of Tourism Jennifer Combs said she did not know about the problem Thursday but said her office will work with Apple to make sure the information is corrected on the website.

“We don’t want anyone to have a reason to worry that they will not be able to travel from Louisiana and back,” Combs said. “We want people to know the Mississippi River bridge is open. We want to make sure the information is accurate”

Combs said she plans to also talk with public relations consultants to see what they can do to help.

“We are definitely on the case,” Combs said.

The MDOT website at Thursday evening posted a warning that the road was closed at the westbound bridge. It also listed the eastbound bridge as open to two-way traffic, but with significant delays.

According to information on the Apple website concerning Apple Maps, the app uses third party sources for its traffic information.

The westbound bridge is closed this week to allow contractors to make $26 million in structural upgrades to the bridge. After those repairs are made, crews will also sandblast and paint the bridge.

The contract runs until spring 2019, but the westbound bridge can only have both lanes shut down for a maximum of 365 days.