Popp’s Ferry Road ends at Pass Road now, but it’s just gotten another step closer to the beach.
The Federal Highway Administration reviewed the route of the new road and the environmental study prepared for the city and on Sept. 7 gave a “Finding of No Significant Impact.”
That puts the four-lane road on the map, although construction may not begin for two years.
With the environmental-impact statement approved, work starts in the next two weeks to survey the land and topography and identify utilities, Biloxi spokesman Vincent Creel said. That work is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Next comes designing the road, which is only eight-tenths of a mile and is expected to cost $8 million to $10 million for engineering, land and construction. Federal money through the Mississippi Department of Transportation will pay for most of the cost. Biloxi’s share of about $400,000 will be paid through a grant from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
At the same time, right-of-way acquisition will begin. Creel said that could be a time-consuming process.
Alternative B, the route preferred by residents and business owners who attended public meetings and approved by the City Council, was the most economical and affects the fewest residents. It extends from where Popp’s Ferry Road ends now to north of the railroad tracks, swings west around the parking garage at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center and curves back to the east to avoid the Quality Inn at the beach.
The approved route will require six to eight homes to come down at the south end of Oakmont Street, compared with 14 homes on the east end of Beachview that would have had to be demolished under Alternative C.
As the property is acquired, the design is scheduled to be submitted to MDOT early next fall, Creel said. If all goes as planned, city officials hope to have the project ready for bid in March 2018.
The construction will take 14 to 18 months, Creel said.
After 25 years of talking about the road, the economic impact it might have in West Biloxi is still to be determined.
“My philosophy is build roads and development will follow,” said Monte Luffey, a principal with Southeast Commercial of Mississippi. His company is the listing agent for a 36-acre bank-owned site along the west side of the Popp’s Ferry extension, advertised for $899,000.
Although 40 percent of the land is wetlands.
“I think, long term, it’s a great site,” Luffey said.
It took time, he pointed out, but the Cowan-Lorraine corridor is booming, and he said he expects to see retail and mixed-use residential coming along the Popp’s Ferry extension after it is built.
The former Wal-Mart at Pass and Popp’s Ferry roads remains empty, but the building directly south, owned by the Coliseum Commission, quickly was rented.
The offices were vacated by Mississippi Emergency Management Agency on June 30, said Matt McDonnell, Coliseum executive director, and Memorial Hospital at Gulfport will move administrative offices into the building Oct. 1.
McDonnell sees the new road as a game-changer for the Coliseum and Convention Center.
“Certainly it will improve the ingress and egress to the property,” he said, which in turn will drive more events and amenities to the complex.
The commission owns most of the land on the east side of the new road north and south of the railroad tracks, and is working with Highpointe Hotel Corp. of Gulf Breeze, Florida, to get a hotel built near the convention center.
There are some trade-offs that come with the new road. A tunnel may be placed under the road to give vehicle and pedestrian access to the west parking lot at the Coliseum and depending on the placement, the road may shave off part of the 8.2 acres recently purchased by the commission on U.S. 90.