Hancock County

Could Kapalama Bridge closure hurt 'back of Diamondhead' businesses?

MAURICE SINGLETON/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALDThe Kapalama Bridge in Diamondhead has deteriorated to the point of needing to be replaced, which will close Kapalama Drive, a main thoroughfare.
MAURICE SINGLETON/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALDThe Kapalama Bridge in Diamondhead has deteriorated to the point of needing to be replaced, which will close Kapalama Drive, a main thoroughfare.

DIAMONDHEAD -- A bridge connecting people to the rear entrance into Diamondhead closed Thursday for replacement, and residents say although officials have helped ease traffic concerns, losing access to the "back of Diamondhead" has become an annoyance.

The bridge on Kapalama Drive is expected to be closed for 30 days, the city noted Wednesday in a Facebook post. Hancock County supervisors said at a special meeting in April the bridge is outdated and unsafe.

Kapalama Drive crosses Kiln-DeLisle Road, which gives residents a way to Kiln or Pass Christian. For residents who work in Harrison County, taking the "back way" could make for a quicker commute to Interstate 10.

Kapalama also is lined with more than a dozen businesses.

The bridge that is out of service is just before the rear entrance to Diamondhead via Golf Club Drive.

Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam said deputies and Diamondhead police have been directing traffic at two main intersections in the front of the city during morning and afternoon rush hours.

"We're keeping someone stationed at the front and back (entrances)," he added.

So far, he said, delays have not been too bad, as residents have had about a month to prepare.

"If you come between 7:20 a.m. and 7:40 a.m., you're going have delays back to Hancock Bank (on Kalani Drive), but it was like that even before the bridge was out," he said.

Residents say law enforcement has done an excellent job directing traffic, but it's a pain having to nearly double their drive time to get to shops on Kapalama.

Angela Gray, who lives near Diamondhead's rear entrance, said her husband's one-mile drive to Prestige Fitness has turned into a 10-mile trek.

Gray's daughter attends preschool in Pass Christian, and Gray said she has to travel to the front of Diamondhead to get to the interstate, which also adds to her drive time.

"It adds a decent amount of time to go out of the front side versus going out the back," she said. "It's inconvenient, but we all know it is for the greater good and only temporary."

Melissa Kirkup said she used to take the rear entrance to work in the morning, but now she goes out the front way.

She said traffic has not been bad in the morning.

"I do think having the police out there directing traffic is overkill, but I guess you have to respect that they are making an effort to assist," she said.

Ja'Vahn Kennedy said she'll be happy when new bridge is complete.

She said she misses going to her favorite pizza spot, Uncle Joe's Pizza and Wings. It's just too long a drive right now to go there regularly to eat.

"My husband has to wake up even earlier now to drive further to work." she said. "I just hope they don't drag this process out, and I miss Uncle Joe's."

Gray, who also said Uncle Joe's is a family favorite, said she worries about business at the pizza joint.

"I hope they do OK through all of this," she said.

Kirsty Schmitt is a Diamondhead resident who works in Bay St. Louis, has a favorite pizza at the restaurant, and said a closed entrance is not going to stop her from eating there.

"Lord knows I need my chicken-bacon-ranch personal pan at least once a week," she said.

Ashley Everett said she doesn't mind the inconvenience, because it will make the community safer.

"Traffic has been moving and flowing great at the front of Diamondhead in my experience so far."

Morgin Monti lives near the rear entrance and works in Harrison County, so the commute has been longer for her, but she said she does not mind.

"It's very inconvenient, but if the bridge needs to be repaired I'm all for it," she said. "I drive my son over that bridge every day -- I want it to be safe."