Traffic already is backing up from construction in downtown Biloxi, but now work is about to start on a second pedestrian overpass near Hard Rock Casino and crews will start paving U.S. 90 across all of Harrison County.
During rush hours, vehicles line up bumper-to-bumper on the I-110 exit ramp and on U.S. 90 going east from the Biloxi Lighthouse as work continues one of two pedestrian crosswalks that will be three blocks away from each other.
“The City of Biloxi has under construction over half a billion dollars in work,” said Michael Leonard, chief administrative officer. That includes work on highways, bridges, boardwalks fire stations and other projects.
It also includes road work in East Biloxi that has gone 511 days over the original contract date. It’s been difficult living and driving there since 2014 with streets torn up to repair those that went under water during Hurricane Katrina.
The huge job swelled from $117 to $128 million, and it is now scheduled to be complete by the end of the year.
Meanwhile the rebuild of Howard Avenue into a two-way, brick-clad street is scheduled to be done in October, as work continues on Howard to the east and west.
U.S. 90 will be paved across the length Harrison County from the Biloxi Bay Bridge to the Bay of St. Louis Bridge.
Crews are inspecting drainage pipes beneath the highway and he said, “We have found a lot of deteriorated pipes under there.” Fiberglass liners will be used to reinforce the pipes that need it, he said.
The paving will be done in three areas: From Bay St. Louis Bridge to Russell Avenue in Long Beach, from Russell Avenue to DeBuys Road at the Gulfport/Biloxi line and from DeBuys Road to the Biloxi Bay Bridge.
All work and paving that will require lane closures will be done at night, he said. For the convenience of the public on a busy road, “It’s just better to work at night,” he said.
The $3.65 million bridge that runs from the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino to MGM Park is on schedule to finish by the end of the year or the first few weeks in January, said Gabe Faggard, area engineer for the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
Two of nine lanes are closed as crews build supports that will house elevators and stairs on each side.
The bridge doesn’t connect directly to the casino or baseball park, he said, but will make it much safer for those crossing between the casino and stadium or going to restaurants and other areas of downtown.
“The pedestrian bridge is a pre-fab structure,” Faggard said. The 160-foot span is being fabricated in Alabama, and he said it is nearly complete. In a couple months, it will be trucked in one piece to Biloxi and raised with cranes, he said.
But it shouldn’t take long.
“We have given the contractor a five-hour window between midnight and 5 a.m. to close Highway 90,” which he said is when there is the least amount of traffic in that area.
Traffic on U.S. 90 that night will be diverted onto Porter Avenue to Howard Avenue and Caillavet Street, he said. If one of those streets is closed for construction, he said MDOT has contingency plans.
Biloxi recently awarded a $2.4 million contract to Dan Hensarling Contractors in Gulfport to build the second pedestrian overpass three blocks to the east. It will connect Hard Rock Casino Biloxi with the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor to the south to two new hotels under construction to the north.
Work typically starts 30 to 45 days after the contract is awarded, Leonard said. The bridge is expected to be done during the summer 2019 and is sure to have some impact on traffic, he said.
Both bridges were designed by Leigh Jaunsen with Dale Partners.
A “Biloxi” sign will be a key element of the bridge that is near the harbor and near the entrance to Biloxi Town Green, which also features a “Biloxi” sign, letting visitors know they’ve arrived in the downtown.
Paving on U.S. 90 was expected to start before Cruisin’ The Coast, but Faggard said more than likely it will begin after the event and probably start at the Bay of St. Louis Bridge.
Typically Cruisin’ The Coast backs up traffic along the Coast as more than 8,000 antique and classic cars share the roads the first week in October. This year the largest event in Mississippi will bring a reprieve from some of the construction.
During Cruisin’, which runs Sept. 30 to Oct. 7, work on nearly all the projects on U.S. 90 that require lane closures will be suspended, said Faggard. But the two lanes closed in front of the Beau Rivage will not open.
When Cruisin’ ends, construction really gets cranking.