Noticing bumpier roads on the Coast? Blame the rain

Westbound traffic flows past a section of potholes on U.S. 90 near Seashore Oaks.
Westbound traffic flows past a section of potholes on U.S. 90 near Seashore Oaks.

Those who drive Beach Boulevard regularly know when to change lanes, and those who don’t are in for a big bounce as they hit a section of U.S. 90 that sank or heaved during the rainy summer.

“Oomph, there it is,” is what drivers feel as they head westbound in Biloxi and encounter the worst spots near Seashore Methodist Church, just east of the Holy Lands, and across from Restaurant Row and the former Broadwater Marina. Most of the spots are close to the stormwater drains at the edge of the road.

“These are the actual drainage pipes under Highway 90,” said Kelly Castleberry, Mississippi Department of Transportation district engineer, said of the places with dips and bumps. They have surfaced in places across Harrison County from the Biloxi Bay Bridge to the Bay of St. Louis Bridge, he said, and the constant rain just exacerbates the issues.

Work to finish rebuilding the highway along the beach was completed in 2008, he said, three years after Hurricane Katrina. Much of the road is now 10 years old, and he said this type of issue with the road is going to happen, considering that area is 100 percent sand.

MDOT crews patched some of the spots to make the dip much less noticeable and Castleberry said paving crews are out when weather allows them to skim patch. Sometimes that’s all that is needed to smooth the ride, he said, but in in some places the pipes have broken and it may take more work to correct the problem.

“If it gets too bad, yes, we do have to go in and dig that out,” he said.

That’s what happened on Pass Road in Biloxi near Eisenhower Driver, where work to repair a pothole turned into a bottleneck of traffic each afternoon for weeks.

Billy Ray Allen, the city’s public works director, told the Biloxi Council on Tuesday that a leak in a concrete drainage junction box installed in the 1970s, and which wasn’t on the city records, was the culprit. A leak at the top of the box three feet underground caused a void that led to the pothole.

“We certainly would have liked to have patched it sooner,” he said, “but we had to wait on a contractor to video the line so we could determine the extent of the repairs.”

When the video showed the problem, he said, city crews immediately fixed the problem and paved the area ahead of the rain from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey.

“Once this rain event is over and we get some clear weather, we’re going to make permanent repairs,” he said.

The rain also has caused problems for the contractor trying to sweep up the sand along U.S. 90 and crews trying to keep up with the fast-growing grass.

“We’re well behind on mowing,” Castleberry said. Even when the rain stops, the medians and grassy areas along I-10 are so soggy, the mowers would get stuck.

“I understand the frustration,” he said, and asks the public to be patient until the weather breaks.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “Our goal is to have everything looking nice for Cruisin’ The Coast,” which is in the first week of October.