Bridging the gap

Drivers should be able to travel by bridge from Bay St. Louis to Pass Christian in May, if construction on the U.S. 90 bridge stays on schedule. The bridge over Biloxi Bay may even open its first two lanes weeks early, in October.

Southern District Highway Commissioner Wayne Brown gave an update on Mississippi Department of Transportation projects Tuesday at a Mississippi Economic Council conference.

Contractors have been offered a $5 million bonus per bridge if two lanes are open by May 16 over the Bay of St. Louis and by Nov. 13 over Biloxi Bay. Contractors face a $100,000 per day penalty if the lanes open late.

Brown said he thinks the Biloxi Bay bridge will have lanes open before the Nov. 6 election.

"It may even open in October if they can keep on this schedule," said Brown.

The bridge over the Bay of St. Louis is being constructed about 150 feet north of the old bridge.

"We were able to ease the curve on the east end of the bridge," said Brown. "There were numerous accidents there and we hope to get away from that."

Both bridges will have art incorporated into their construction. Area artists have been asked to submit renderings for consideration to use in brass plaques along the bike and pedestrian lane of the Bay St. Louis bridge. The plaques will be attached to balustrades every tenth of a mile. Brown said similar projects are planned for the Biloxi Bay Bridge.

Brown said the brass being used for the artwork is being recycled from the old Biloxi Bay bridge. Pieces of both bridges are also being used for fishing reefs that should also provide some protection from future storms.

Brown said three or four other projects totaling between $80 million and $90 million are planned for U.S. 90.

"We are hoping this summer to let projects to rebuild U.S. 90 all the way across Harrison County," he said.

Brown said there are no plans to widen the highway, although some turning lanes may be extended.

Another traffic issue Brown hopes to see addressed is the congestion on I-110, which he said it is partly caused by the closing of the Biloxi Bay bridge.

"We want to see what we can do to reduce the congestion and improve the highway for Biloxi and D'Iberville," said Brown. "We have a great deal to do."

Bridge updates

Bay of St. Louis

Contractors: Granite Construction Company and Archer Western Contractors.

Contract cost: $266.8 million.

Height: 85 feet at its highest point.

Lanes: Four 12-foot travel lanes separated by a concrete median and a 12-foot pedestrian and bicycle lane on the south side.

Deadlines: Two lanes open by May 16; project complete by Nov. 30.

Biloxi Bay

Contractors: GC Constructors, a joint venture composed of the firms Massman Construction Company of Kansas City, Mo., Kiewit Southern Company of Peachtree City, Ga., and Traylor Brothers Inc. of Evansville, Ind.

Contract cost: $338.6 million.

Height: 95 feet at its highest point.

Lanes: Six travel lanes and a pedestrian/bicycle lane.

Deadlines: Two lanes open by Nov. 13; project complete by April 16, 2008.