Bridge closures affect thousands in Yalobusha and Grenada counties

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YALOBUSHA COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) – In an emergency, you would hope that the nearest ambulance wouldn’t be an hour away.

When driving your kids to school, a four-hour roundtrip is more than an inconvenience.

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For some people in Grenada, Calhoun, and Yalobusha counties, this is their new normal.

Almost 800 vehicles drive over the Gums Crossing Bridge every day.

At least, until it was closed one year ago.

Now, that bridge has collapsed.

It’s sister Bridge, Graysport, will soon be closed for reconstruction– affecting more than 1,000 area residents.

Gums Crossing Bridge is about 68 years old.

In February of 2019, It didn’t pass inspection and was closed. In early January of 2020, the bridge collapsed.

James Broughman lives in the peninsula he likes to call “Between the Rivers”– right on the Yalobusha and Grenada County line.

Before it closed, he used the Gums bridge almost daily.

“If you’re coming this way from Coffeeville to my house, you’re looking at 8 miles. Now the way I have to go to come to Coffeeville, you’re looking at 25 miles… The issue is the long drive and then the condition of the road we have to travel on to get out of there to come this way. It’s all gravel,” said Broughman.

Right now, residents are relying heavily on another bridge, the Graysport bridge, to get where they need to go.

The only problem is, pretty soon, the Graysport bridge will be undergoing complete reconstruction, leaving everyone “between the rivers” with only one way out and only one way in for first responders.

“You’ve heard of the golden hour… if you have an accident or wreck, all emergency response folks… that first hour means a lot,” said Broughman.

Yalobusha County District 5 Supervisor Gaylon Gray said school buses also use the two bridges.

“The kids have got a four-hour school bus ride every day in the Coffeeville School District. When the Graysport bridge gets closed, the kids in the Grenada School District are going to have probably even longer because they’ll have to be diverted through Calhoun City,” said Gray.

Nearby businesses and churches are also struggling to hold up.

“We had a little store up here. It was Parker’s then it was L&L’s but now they’ve shut down. It’s basically killed their business… You’ve got Clear Springs, you’ve got Pine Grove, you got Shiloh, and it’s a lot of people that was raised out here in this community, they come to church and still go to church out there, so now they’re having to go all the way up,” said Broughman.

Gray said there are plans in place to get the bridge back up and running, but it will take time.

“Yalobusha county is going ahead, we’ve secured 80% of the funding through federal disaster declaration,” said Gray.

The total cost of the bridge repair will be between $9 million and $12 million– leaving Yalobusha County to come up with the rest.

“Our entire budget for Yalobusha County is not but $8.5 million,” said Gray.

Supervisors said there will be a new bridge, but it could take 3 to 4 years from now to complete.

Currently, there are about 500 closed bridges across the state.