90 to Open for Public in Mid December
Biloxi officials hope that work by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) to get the beach highway within the city open to the public will be completed by December 15th.
Opening all four lanes of Highway 90 to the public is one of the key elements in getting the city's recovery underway and for relieving traffic congestion. The road also needs to be open to help get residents to Edgewater Mall before the busy Christmas shopping season ends. But city officials say there are numerous issues regarding the road.
Vincent Creel, Biloxi's communication's director says that MDOT has told them the road will be ready by that date but there are numerous safety issues to be resolved before the road can be opened to the public. The hurricane destroyed all the highway's street lights and traffic signals and the city wants those back in place before the road is reopened. With less than a month to go, no street lights or traffic signals have been placed. But Creel says the city is coordinating with MDOT in replacing traffic signals needed for public safety. The city is responsible for lighting but MDOT is responsible for replacing the traffic signals.
MDOT contractors have been busy clearing debris from storm drains along the highway. Hurricane Katrina clogged the drains with all sorts of stuff. Beside mud, sand and building debris, workers have found toilets, hot water heaters and even some of the inventory from one of the adult bookstores that was on the beach.
Creel also says they are trying to get the casino barges that are along side of the highway removed soon. Four casino barges are on land just immediately north of the beach highway that were washed ashore from Katrina. In east Biloxi, two barges from the Grand in Biloxi, and Casino Magic's barge need to be removed. The President Casino's barge just west of the Biloxi Coliseum also needs to be removed.
While the barges are not in the roadway, Creel tells GCN that the highway could become damaged in the removal process and will certainly interfere with traffic if they are not removed prior to reopening the road.
Even when Highway 90 reopens, many of the turn-in bays will be blocked to restrict access into neighborhoods that were destroyed by Katrina.
MDOT is also still repairing sections of the roadbed that were washed away by Katrina. The road is open currently to only emergency and debris removal vehicles. But a section from Veterans Avenue east to the I-110 is open from 2:30 p.m. until nightfall on weeknights to help relieve traffic in the afternoons.