What if there’s an emergency at spring break? Biloxi has a plan

Spring breakers cross U. S. 90 during a break in traffic near Beauvoir in April 2016 during Spring Break weekend.
Spring breakers cross U. S. 90 during a break in traffic near Beauvoir in April 2016 during Spring Break weekend. Sun Herald File

At least Biloxi is trying.

This year during the mid-April spring break, the city will shut down one lane of traffic on each side of U.S. 90 from I-110 to the Gulfport city limits and use it for emergency vehicles. Last year, more than 60,000 spring breakers virtually shut down U.S. 90 from Edgewater Mall to the Coast Coliseum. That made it all but impossible for first responders to get to the neighborhoods north of 90 or reach spring breakers in need of aid.

We can’t have a repeat of that dangerous situation. Dedicating two lanes of traffic, one in each direction, to emergency traffic assures that police, fire and medical personnel can respond quickly. That will help keep visitors and residents safe.

How well this plan works depends on the cooperation of the 70,000 young people Biloxi expects April 13-15. They can have fun without impeding emergency traffic.

Many have wondered why spring break, which some promoters have called Biloxi Black Beach Weekend, is treated differently than other big draws such as Cruisin’ The Coast. The difference is the density of the crowd. Cruisin’ organizers have made a conscious effort to spread its crowd up and down the Coast. Spring breakers on the other hand tend to gravitate to the area around the Coliseum, which will host music and other events.

Spring break also lacks the organizational structure of Cruisin’ and Mardi Gras. Cruisin’ enlists volunteers to help the event run smoothly. We’d like to see spring break become so organized.

We like to see our hotels brimming with guests and people from all over enjoying our beaches.

But it can be expensive for the taxpayers.

The Biloxi Police Department says it needs $48,768 just to hire additional police. It wants another $231,000 to buy cones and barriers to control traffic. That’s a hefty investment. But if the 70,000 visitors leave with fond memories, many will return. We hope they keep coming back not just for spring break, but for years to come with their families. That would be a great return on our investment.

We ask everyone to be patient, to avoid the area if you can, and to help send our visitors home with smiles on their faces.

“This plan is not going to be popular with anyone,” said Biloxi public affairs director Vincent Creel. That may be, but if someone has a better alternative, we have yet to hear it. And we agree with Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, “We cannot and will not have a repeat of what was experienced (last year).”

We’re confident this will be an improvement.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.