A new Howard Avenue could be in place this time next year

Howard Avenue between Reynoir and Lameuse streets, once the heart of downtown Biloxi but closed as a major thoroughfare by urban renewal in the ’70s, could be open to two-way traffic this time next year, Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich told a Biloxi Chamber of Commerce audience this morning.

The mayor made the announcement while speaking to a standing-room-only audience of the chamber’s popular Breakfast with the Mayor gathering.  The event was presented in the dining room at Merit Health, which, coincidentally, is adjacent to Howard Avenue.

According to Andy Phelan of Pickering Engineering, the project could be out for bids at the beginning of the year and construction could begin as early as mid-March. The six-month project, estimated at $1.2 million, would include restoring two lanes of traffic from Reynoir to MLK, where a restructured intersection would be built, as well as adding uniform sidewalks on Howard and curbside parking.

Re-opening Howard Avenue to two-way traffic, which has been discussed for years, is part of a project to include the restoration of downtown Biloxi. Among the other key factors: restoring the Saenger Theater and a faƧade grant program for downtown.

The mayor also reviewed progress on a number of other issues. Among the highlights:

Panhandling: The City Council’s passage of panhandling and loitering ordinances Tuesday night will be tools to help address the homelessness issue. Said Gilich: “What we’re working to do is address issues where people feel intimidated by aggressive panhandlers, and we’re aiming to do it in a manner that is constitutional and protects rights of free speech. It’s a complex issue, but one that needs to be addressed.”

Infrastructure: While no one is happy with progress on the infrastructure work in east Biloxi, he was pleased to see more preliminary paving done “to get people off dirt roads.” The mayor once again promised that work south of the railway, scheduled to begin west of downtown area after the first of the year, would be better controlled and managed.

Dollars to doughnuts (beignets, actually): The city’s Finance Division has moved from the old Biloxi Library on Lameuse Street to the third floor of the U.S. Post Office building on Main Street, opening the door for Le CafĆ© Beignet to soon begin operating on the second floor of the former library and a steak house to open on the ground floor.

Sand beach: A structural engineering firm is working on the design of the prefabricated beach boardwalk that the mayor wants to see put in the 3,500-linear foot area between the small craft harbor and Kuhn Street. Said the mayor: “We met with the head of the Mobile office of the Corps of Engineers. They said we are on the right track. The bottom line is we already have 14,000-linear feet of 10-foot boardwalk in place in Biloxi, and we have 17,000 feet to go. This test project will show that it will keep the sand on the sand beach and off Highway 90, which will save the city a half-million dollars a year we’re spending on moving sand.”
Gallery: Photos from the Breakfast with the Mayor 
City Desk: Mayor, police chief and engineer on the issues 
Video: A glimpse of Howard Avenue old
See the Howard Avenue plan 


News and notes: City council, traffic

City council meeting:  Members of the Biloxi City Council passed loitering and panhandling ordinances during their first-of-the-month meeting Tuesday night at City Hall.  To see images from the meeting, click here

Traffic update:  To see the latest traffic advisories and road closures, click here