This commentary is from several news articles on various highway projects in Mississippi and Louisiana. This was posted on June 8, 2006.

More Mississippi (and Louisiana) news

Some more road items of interest down here over the past week

- On Tuesday, MDOT awarded the long-awaited contract to replace the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge on US 90, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The contract went to GC Constructors of Kansas City for $338.6 million. GC barely edged out Granite Archer Western in the technical score, even though GC's proposal runs 30 days longer than what G.A.W. proposed and what MDOT wanted. The bridge isn't expected to fully open until late February, 2008, with 2 lanes opening sometime November, 2007.

The full bridge will be 6 lanes with 8-ft inside and 10-ft outside shoulders, plus a bike/ped path. There will be 95-ft of vertical clearance over the shipping channel, an increase of 10-ft over previous proposals. MDOT scrapped the proposals earlier this year and increased the clearance from 85-ft to 95-ft as a compromise to shipbuilders and industrial interests (including Northrup Grumman) who wanted and fought for a drawbridge.

Also, the contract is a design-build of only a few that MDOT has ever done...the Bay St Louis bridge replacement is also a design-build.

- Also related to US 90, MDOT has been doing a study looking at implementing ferry service while the two bridges (Bay St. Louis and Biloxi-Ocean Springs) are being replaced. But the data thus far isn't looking promising and MDOT Southern District Commissioner Wayne Brown "doesn't have a real good feeling about it".

- After 21 years of effort, MDOT has finally started construction to replace the infamous "S-Curve" on I-59 in Laurel. Those of you who have driven through the segment know about the 40 MPH speed limit, tight curves, and almost non-existant shoulders at the location, which according to one local paper has claimed 13 lives over the past decade.  The project is expected to last through 2009. A link to a rough diagram of the realignment is listed below.

One interesting aspect about the project is the funding mechanism. In 2004, the state Legislature passed a law that has created a sort of state version of "Advance Construction (AC) funding". Per the law, local municipalities and counties can take out a loan in order to advance a road project. Federal and state dollars will then repay the loan...likely coming from the state's share of FHWA funding on the Federal side). In this case, the city of Laurel borrowed $36 million in order to get the S-Curve realignment started this year.

- MDOT recently announced the completion of all post-Katrina debris-removal operations along the state highway system. Residents living along state highways are no longer allowed to leave Katrina debris along the side of the road for pickup by MDOT.

- Moving away from the Gulf Coast, MDOT recently activated two traffic signals along the Tylertown Bypass on US 98, one each at MS 27 and at MS 583.

- An interesting article from the Vicksburg Post about a section of MS 465 and who's actually responsible for it. There is apparently a dispute over who's responsible for part of MS 465 as it follows one of the Mississippi River levees in parts of Warren and Issaquena Counties.  MDOT dropped the segment of road in 2002, passing it to the Mississippi Levee Commission, but normally it requires a Legislative act to make such additions/deletions/turnbacks official, and the state Legislature has passed no such law for MS 465.

- One item in Louisiana. Was in Slidell today and noticed some heavy-duty construction on I-10 between I-12/59 and the Twin Spans.  I-10 is down to 2 lanes each direction along the stretch, and the right shoulder is all ripped up. From what little I could find on the LaDOTD website, it looks like the start of some LONG-NEEDED pavement rehab along the segment. Can't tell for sure right now, but I'm hoping it also includes also-needed auxiliary lanes between US 190 and I-12/59.  At a $24.2 million price tag, it's certainly expensive enough to support such.

Lastly, for those of you who do or may travel through Mississippi, the state has now joined the ranks of those states where lack of seat-belt usage is now a primary traffic offense. The law went into effect on May 27, and there's been a campaign underway in several parts of the state to pull over and ticket those who haven't been wearing their seat belts.

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