Harrison County

Spring break alert: Heavy traffic expected in Biloxi

Spring breakers navigate their way past grills, tents and coolers during Biloxi Black Beach Weekend, Saturday, April 11, 2015.
Spring breakers navigate their way past grills, tents and coolers during Biloxi Black Beach Weekend, Saturday, April 11, 2015. SUN HERALD

Coast traffic will be heavier than usual this weekend, in part because of the Biloxi Black Beach Weekend. Police expect traffic to be so heavy they've released traffic-control plans so people prepare in advance.

Coast hotels are booked from state line to state line, according to the Gulf Coast Hotel-Motel Lodging Association.

The Gulf Coast Yacht and Boat Show also opens Friday at the Gulfport Harbor. The Shuckers will play seven straight games at MGM Park in Biloxi starting with Thursday's opening day. And a spring break concert is expected to draw 9,000 people to the Coast Coliseum on Saturday night.

There are also other events, and vacationers are coming to town, Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said.

"We want people to come enjoy our city," he said, "but we can't let traffic reach gridlock."

How bad could traffic get?

It came to a screeching halt in 2000, when a black spring break with no designated headquarters created a gridlock police have since tried to avoid.

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Beachfront traffic won't just be heavy Saturday.

"It will be heavy, heavy traffic," Miller said.

It's expected to be at its heaviest from Edgewater Mall to the Coast Coliseum starting about noon and ending about 10 p.m., he said.

Gulfport police are advising residents who live or work near the beach to use Anniston Avenue or DeBuys Road as alternate routes.

Traffic plans

Biloxi police have a three-stage traffic plan for U.S. 90. Gulfport police will implement a plan to help if needed.

"The plan has worked so well that we haven't had to go to a 'full vent' in several years," Miller said.

The first stage is to close turn bays -- the beachside parking areas.

"Drivers leaving the turn bays slow down traffic," Miller said. "And so do those who try to turn around to get in a turn bay. It can take a couple of hours to get traffic moving again."

The second stage would be to close all side streets, forcing drivers east or west to thin traffic out.

The third stage would send all motorists north to Interstate 10.

Gulfport police will divert motorists north on Cowan Road if needed, police Sgt. Damon McDaniel said.

Biloxi police would send eastbound traffic north on Interstate 110.

One of the safest things spring-breakers can do is to park at the Coliseum, Miller said.

The parking fee is $5 on Friday and $20 on Saturday.

"The fee is per carload and everyone in the vehicle gets a wrist band that allows them entrance to the grounds for activities," Coliseum Executive Director Matt McDonnell said.

A private promoter has leased a lot west of the Coliseum for parking at a fee.

"Quite frankly, we appreciate that," Miller said of the additional parking.

Miller also has some advice for spring-breakers.

Parking in a manner that blocks traffic won't be tolerated.

"Tow trucks will be standing by," he said.

Also, glass containers are not allowed on the beach, and parking bays will close at 10 p.m.

'A good weekend'

"We're looking forward to a good weekend all the way around," said Derrian Burns, co-promoter of the spring break.

Burns said people from all across the nation have called, including someone in Hawaii.

Burns said Biloxi Black Beach Weekend is not an all-black event.

"The name, well, there's a lot of people who like the idea of having something they can call their own. But everyone is welcome."

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