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Gulfport's Reopening of Hwy 90 Without Safety Features in Place At Odds with Biloxi's Plan
by Keith Burton - GCN    Filed 11/29/05

The City of Gulfport will allow public access to U.S. Highway 90 starting today even though the opening is at odds with MDOT's and Biloxi's plan to open the road up December 15.

"The City of Gulfport has asked us to open Highway 90 to two-way traffic December 1st within city limits," said Tod Jordan, an assistant district engineer with MDOT who spoke with GCN Tuesday afternoon.

Jordan tells GCN that the road will not have any traffic signals operating and only a few turning bays will be open for motorists. Stop signs will be in place for intersections. MDOT has a contractor installing temporary signal lights, but those will not be operational until later in the month.

U.S. 90 in Biloxi aiming for Dec. 15 opening

Biloxi police are hoping to minimize traffic congestion on DeBuys Road as a result of Gulfport's plan to open two lanes of U.S. 90 to traffic on today. Gulfport's plan to open Highway 90 came unexpectedly to city officials.

Police are advising eastbound motorists traveling U.S. 90 in Gulfport to turn north onto Cowan Road since U.S. 90 will remain closed in Biloxi.

"Cowan offers four lanes of traffic, while DeBuys can only accommodate two lanes of traffic," Police Chief Bruce Dunagan said Wednesday afternoon. "If Gulfport motorists headed to Biloxi will use Cowan, we'll be able to minimize bottlenecks at DeBuys and Pass roads."

Biloxi is aiming to re-open all lanes of U.S. 90 once the Mississippi Department of Transportation has installed traffic signals and street lighting, which is expected to be Dec. 15.

Biloxi police also are continuing to allow weekday afternoon motorists to access U.S. 90 at Veterans Avenue to travel to the I-110 loop.

"The people of Biloxi have been very patient while MDOT continues to make the necessary repairs on Highway 90," Dunagan said. "We appreciate the patience, and we know our residents can hold on for 16 more days, when we're hoping that Highway 90 will be ready."

MDOT has promised to have all four lanes of Highway 90 open from Point Cadet in Biloxi to Pass Christian ready between December 15-18. The roadway will have operational traffic signals but those are only temporary. The entire road will eventually be rebuilt and modernized. The current repairs are only to get the highway operational. Even when the entire beach highway is opened, there will not be any street lights and the road will be quite dark at night. MDOT officials tell GCN that the streetlights were destroyed by Katrina and the entire electrical infrastructure needs to be rebuilt, something that is many months away.

Much of the beach highway has been open for emergency vehicles and for debris removal trucks since shortly after Hurricane Katrina. But large sections of the roadbed on both the east and west bound lanes had to be rebuilt.

Gulfport's decision to open Highway 90 earlier than Biloxi indicates that the cities are not working together to better coordinate recovery efforts where such efforts can provide for the greatest safety. Gulfport's opening of the road before traffic signals are in place and only to two lanes is similar to when Gulfport authorized residents to drink city water from its city water system, which was damaged from Hurricane Katrina, prior to getting approval from the Mississippi Department of Health and prior to Biloxi, which waited for authorization from the state.

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