BILOXI -- Replacing the Popp's Ferry Bridge remains a priority in Biloxi, but while it's a dream on a long-range plan, other projects are moving forward to widen Popp's Ferry Road at the north, lengthen it to the beach and to build a pedestrian crosswalk over U.S. 90 to MGM Park.
The crosswalk is a priority for the downtown.
"We're in discussions with the designer right now," said Kelly Castleberry, district engineer for Mississippi Department of Transportation.
Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich said he wants the bridge to have the look of old Biloxi. That could mean it would resemble the crossover that was near the same location at the old Buena Vista Hotel. Or he could choose to recreate the replica of the St. Louis arch that was part of the crosswalk near the Sea N Sand where Treasure Bay Casino now stands.
On a typical day, the vehicle count is 15,867 in that area of U.S. 90, said Jim Turner with Gulf Coast Planning Commission. Traffic increases on game day and a crossover would make it easier for fans to cross the busy road.
Biloxi's match is $400,000, which will be paid through a grant from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said Vincent Creel, the city's public affairs manager.
A meeting Tuesday will give people a look at the final plans for an extension of Popp's Ferry Road that will fill the gap between Pass Road and U.S. 90.
People can stop in at the Donal Snyder Community Center between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. to see the maps and discuss the plans with city engineers.
The proposed road is expected to cost $15 million and the city anticipates 80 percent federal funding. But residents shouldn't look for the new road before 2020 at best, Creel said.
After the surveys are complete and right-of-way acquired, "We're looking to begin the construction in 2018," Creel said.
"It's down to two plans," he said, and either will ease backups at both ends of Beauvoir Road and at the intersection of Popp's Ferry and Pass roads.
Alternative B travels more directly south, passing just west of the parking garage at the Coast Coliseum. It puts all of the facility's west parking lot on the other side of the road. Alternative C swings more to the west and divides the parking lot.
Matt McDonnell, Coast Coliseum executive director, said he's had discussions with city planners about putting a culvert in large enough to handle vehicle and pedestrian traffic under the road to the parking lot, "instead of trying to cross a five-lane road."
Besides providing another route to crowds in and out of the Coliseum, the extension likely would open the land south of Pass Road to development -- something McDonnell said would be good for West Biloxi.
At the north end of Popp's Ferry Road, crews are widening the road between Cedar Lake Road and the D'Iberville line, and Creel said it will create a boulevard with a 16-foot-wide median down the middle and sidewalks on both sides.
Between these two projects to the north and south, the status of a new Popp's Ferry Bridge hasn't changed much since it was damaged during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and a section of the bridge had to be rebuilt when a barge crashed into a span in 2009.
The raw traffic count is 20,631 vehicles a day, and Kenneth Yarrow, planning manager with GCPC, said a replacement bridge was built into the long-range transportation plan that recently was completed.
Without funding, the bridge will remain on the wish list for now.