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Decision is close on Popp's Ferry extension route

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALDOakmont Place homeowners Wilbur Maddox, left, and Harold Sumners look at maps during a drop-in meeting on the proposed Popps Ferry Road extension routes at the Donal Snyder Community Center in Biloxi on Tuesday March 22, 2016.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALDOakmont Place homeowners Wilbur Maddox, left, and Harold Sumners look at maps during a drop-in meeting on the proposed Popps Ferry Road extension routes at the Donal Snyder Community Center in Biloxi on Tuesday March 22, 2016. SUN HERALD

BILOXI -- City officials have talked about extending Popp's Ferry Road to the beach for about 25 years, and the decision of what route the new road will follow could come in just three months.

Steve Twedt, South Mississippi manager for the city's engineering firm Neel-Shaffer, said the best-case scenario would have the Biloxi Council and officials at the Federal Highway Administration deciding on the best route in 90 days.

Alternative B -- that takes the road just west of the parking garage at the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center -- is what residents who attended a public meeting Tuesday at the Donal Snyder Community Center say will best serve their neighborhoods.

It calls for fewer houses to come down -- six to eight at the south end of Oakmont Street, compared to 14 homes on the east end of Beachview that would be demolished under Alternative C. It sweeps west after crossing the railroad tracks and passes on the west side of Maison D'Orleans Apartments.

Alternative B also is less expensive -- $8.2 million compared to $8.6 million for Alternative C.

Both plans are at grade level to reduce the expense as train crossing will be required. Twedt said the engineers are talking to Matt McDonnell, executive director of the Coliseum, about an underpass that would have limited clearance to allow cars and pedestrians access to the west parking lot so they wouldn't have to dash cross four lanes of traffic to get to their vehicles.

The four-lane, divided road will be a little less than a mile long with a median in the center, a bicycle lane and sidewalks on both sides of the road.

Council President Robert Deming III said one of the most obvious advantages of either plan is the opportunity for economic development for the area near the road, the Coliseum and Edgewater Mall.

Jan Phillips lives on Oakmont and likes Alternative B. Although the road will pass closer to her house, "It will give me good access," she said. "We can't get out now," she said,

Part of the plan is to remove the traffic light at the current entrance to the Coliseum and install one at the new road to give residents and those going to the Coliseum better access.

Ed Bossier said he likes Alternative C because it has one curve instead of two and enters U.S. 90 at a less congested place.

"They're both very feasible options. I'll wait and let the council decide," said city engineer Christy LeBatard.

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