Hurricane Katrina

Traffic lights hit snag

GULFPORT - The wait for new traffic signals on U.S. 90 got a little longer last week when MDOT withdrew its advertisement for bids on the projects.

The Federal Highway Administration told the state transportation agency at the end of September it would need to beef up the supports to meet a higher wind-speed rating. MDOT determined last week that it couldn't just make minor changes to the proposal.

"The main reason we didn't change anything is because we didn't have any failures due to wind on the Coast," State Traffic Engineer Wes Dean said. "It was either the waterborne debris or when the military came through on U.S. 90 and cleared the path, they took down a lot of the stuff that was left there.

"When we redesigned, we thought that based on what we had seen that our wind-speed design was still OK."

The projects, divided into Harrison and Hancock County sections, would have had bids opened today in Jackson during the monthly bidding cycle. Eight other sets of bids will be opened today, including the paving of Mississippi 67 from I-110 to Mississippi 605 (the Cowan-Lorraine Road extension) and U.S. 90 median landscaping.

The traffic signal project included Mississippi 43 and 603 in Hancock County. It will also have a new-generation traffic signal coordination that would feature a radio network to better coordinate the lights.

Many of the emergency traffic signals in place now run on simple timing circuits without sensors that prevent unnecessary U.S. 90 red lights.

MDOT is working with the Florida Department of Transportation, whose designs have been adopted nationally. They have three categories of structures, the lowest-rated of which starts at 110 mph.

The old design was rated for 80 mph, and one of the problems MDOT is trying to work through is how to fit the larger supports necessary in places where U.S. 90's rights of way are tight.

For example, some of the old supports had 36-inch foundations. Some used in Florida are as big as 60 inches.

"The more we look into this, the more things we're saying, 'Gee whiz, we're going to have to look at this and this if we do that,'

" Dean said. "We want to make everything safe and wind-resistant, but maybe not go up to the superstructures if we can make a safe, sound design on the Coast."

MDOT isn't sure if the designs will be ready for next month's bid cycle. Project advertisements would be posted Nov. 6 and bids would be opened Nov. 28.

There is no regularly scheduled December bid cycle, although several Katrina projects have required special bidding.

Other bids

The state transportation agency will open bids on eight projects today, with six having South Mississippi interest:

 One project will pave U.S. 67 from I-110 to Mississippi 605 (the Cowan-Lorraine Road extension).

 Two projects will repair median landscaping along the length of U.S. 90 in Harrison County.

 One project will be for repaving I-10 between Mississippi 57 and the Pascagoula River.

 Two projects will make renovations and improvements to rest areas and welcome centers in Jackson County.