U.S. 90 Rebuilding Will Not Occur Until October or November
by Keith Burton - GulfCoastNews.com 8/09/07
The Mississippi Department of Transportation last May reported in the local news media that they planned to begin repairs to the Hurricane Katrina-damaged U.S. 90 in July, but July has come and gone and not a single foot of road has seen any work. MDOT ran into some problems.
MDOT Southern District Commissioner Wayne Brown, in an interview with GCN, says the agency had to re-issue bids in July instead of accepting a contract. The result is that work on the bumpy beach road will not start any sooner than October, or even November.
"That all depends if we can accept bids by the end of September," Brown told GCN.
Brown said there was a problem with the initial bids, "and we had to throw them out." Brown added that he and the other commissioners will be voting to award some of the bids on the 26-mile beach highway later this month. Brown did not explain what, or who, caused the bids to be thrown out. Work on the highway is expected to be completed within two years, but that will mean the repairs will be finished around 2010, five years after Katrina hit the Mississippi Coast on August 29, 2005.
"It's going to require a prolonged period of patience by Coast residents," Brown said.
The beach highway was badly damaged by the hurricane. The road is only in use due to temporary repairs and the drainage system is also in bad shape, all of which will be repaired. The work also includes repairs to the curbs where they were buried by asphalt.
Brown told GCN that much of the work will have to be done during daylight hours, when the road is at its busiest. He said that delivery of concrete for drainage and roadbed reconstruction would drive up costs if the work was done at night. That means, Brown said, that "there will be an extended period of lane closures."
"There is a lot of work to be done. We have to redo curbs and drainage, very, very complex work," Brown said, "But we are trying to compress the work to save as much time as possible."
The work on U.S. 90 will be taking place mostly after the new Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge is finished. A portion of that bridge is set to open officially by November 13, and all of the 10-lane bridge finished in April 2008, but Brown believes the contractor will get the first few lanes of the bridge open several weeks earlier, which would be good news to Coast residents and workers in the Casino industry.
With the bridge opening, and the road work just getting underway, traffic congestion is expected to become a major headache. Even before the hurricane, U.S. 90 was completely overwhelmed. Efforts before the hurricane to add new roads and bridges in Biloxi, have been thwarted by MDOT, which has ignored pleas for more roads to service the million-plus visitors the Coast receives every year. MDOT has received enormous criticism from transportation experts, before and since the hurricane for moving slowly to make repairs and improvements to the Coast's transportation system.
Like the bridge, MDOT is getting federal money to completely pay for the U.S. 90 repairs. But even with plenty of money on tap, the agency is notoriously slow to finish work or meet announced goals. MDOT is also very resistant to public or political pressure, and routinely makes promises that it does not fulfill. Road work across the Bay of Biloxi is several years behind schedule.