Transport sessions need your input

If the mention of another master-planning session doesn't raise the pulse rate of charrette- and consultant-jaded South Mississippians, officials are trying to pump up interest in a series of transportation public meetings this week.

If you don't plan for it, it won't come.

"To get federal funding, your project has to be in the long-range plan," said Gulf Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Elaine Wilkinson.

Transportation issues jumped on the general public's priority list following Katrina, thanks to the array of redevelopment meetings that stressed its importance.

Wilkinson said based on people's inquiries to the commission the topic may have receded in many people's minds, but this week's meeting in each of the coastal counties will allow another means of providing input into the Gulf Coast Area Transportation Study.

GCATS is a 30-year master plan that will include a list of prioritized projects. Funding from Washington trickles down based on the plan.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for each of the meetings, with an introductory presentation at 6. After that, attendees will be able to circulate among displays, making comments on maps and comment cards and talking with experts.

The GRPC experts get valuable knowledge from neighborhoods at these meetings.

In addition to GCATS, there are five supplementary areas of study stemming from the Governor's Commission work:

 Harrison County east-west corridor study

 Transit study

 Pedestrian/bicycle study

 Freight-movement study

 A safety study

The east-west corridor study figures to be of prime interest at Monday's meeting in D'Iberville. The study will generate concepts and won't be limited to the CSX Transportation right-of-way.

"We don't want anyone to be frightened that we're coming out with final alignments," Wilkinson said. "We have to start the process and we have to start it conceptually to keep it in the federal planning process, so whatever comes of it will be eligible for federal dollars."

Past studies and current ideas will be on display with an eye toward figuring out what makes sense where. Will there be bicycle lanes there or somewhere else? Might creating something astride or alongside the CSX tracks make sense? What are the capacity-requirement differences from Point Cadet to Henderson Point?

GRPC has had to recalibrate much of its data since the storm. It's actually planning on a bigger population down the line than before, and the redistribution of the current population drastically changes things.

Both factors makes planning a transit system all the more important.

"The discussion on transit right now is very critical. We think it's a greater need than ever," Wilkinson said. "The population's moving to the north, which means in many cases they're moving further away from their employment site than ever. They'll need transportation and transit can provide a cost-effective solution to them."

Jackson County's population surge has caused some rethinking of U.S. 90 usage and increased the need for another north-south connector to Interstate 10.

In Hancock County, they'll likely talk about U.S. 90 as well, along with the idea of another north-south connector east of Mississippi 603.

And at the root of these discussions are the clearer concepts of community established in the renewal process.

"The only way to approach this problem and to create a balanced system where we can have travel for the people and preserving the character of neighborhoods and communities is to have a plan," said Wilkinson.

Sample questions

A look at some questions that will be asked at the meetings:

 What are the most important north-south connections to the (Harrison County east-west) corridor?

 What (safety) situations do you most commonly experience when driving, biking or walking? (Use adhesive dots to stick to maps and explain on questionnaire.)

 Have you ever thought about going somewhere in the Gulf Coast region and not gone because you didn't think you could go safely?

 What do you think are the best opportunities for improved bicycling and walking in this region? (Use adhesive dots to stick to maps and explain on questionnaire.)

More input opportunities

Gulf Regional Planning Commission has other ways to get more information and make your voice heard:

 The Harrison County East-West Corridor project office: Neel-Schaffer, 772 Howard Ave., Biloxi

 GRPC Web site:

 GRPC staff are also available to speak to groups. Call 864-1167.


If you go

All meetings this week start at 6 p.m.; doors open at 5:30.


Where: D'Iberville City Hall, 10383 Automall Parkway


Where: Kiln Library, 17065 Mississippi 603


Where: Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Student Center, 2300 U.S. 90, Gautier