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Virus also affecting clean up of bridges, roads

NATCHEZ — The novel coronavirus pandemic may be impacting state road crews’ ability to take care of some minor grass cutting, cleaning and maintenance needs on public highways and bridges.

Trash and debris littered the Vidalia to Natchez Bridge on U.S. 84 on Thursday while grass and moss grew in the drains and cracks between the concrete.

A few concerned local residents, including Kenneth Stubbs, MD, with Internal Medicine and Associates, said he believes the eyesore of weeds and trash collecting on the bridge adds more to the problems locals are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s sad, like coming into a warzone,” Stubbs said. “… I know DOT didn’t put the trash on the bridge. We, the local residents, did.”

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft said town officials had contacted MDOT following complaints about the bridge and were told the town’s road crews couldn’t touch it.

“They tell us not to get on it, and we’ve even called and offered to clean it ourselves,” Craft said.

Jas N Smith, public information officer with the Mississippi Department of Transportation said Thursday that the U.S. 84 bridge is on a schedule to be cleaned on a routine basis.

“The 84 bridge is on a regular maintenance schedule for debris cleaning and weed mitigation,” Smith said. “This is routine maintenance that is done on a regular cycle to prevent drainage issues. It is not a daily maintenance task, but is scheduled to be done next week, weather permitting.”

Smith also said fewer MDOT staffers are on the roads to take care of minor projects due to COVID-19. The remaining workers are primarily focusing on essential projects that impact public safety and travel, Smith said.

“We have a number of our staff who are working from home or on administrative leave, so we don’t have as many people to do the minor maintenance stuff that doesn’t impact driver safety,” Smith said. “The crews that we have on the roads right now are doing essential maintenance that impacts public safety and the longevity of our infrastructure.”