Breakfast with Mayor: Popp’s Ferry bridge update and more

Here is the prepared text of Mayor A.J. Holloway’s presentation to “Breakfast with the Mayor,” on Wednesday, April 1, 2009, sponsored by the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce and hosted by the IP Casino Resort Spa.

Good morning. I’m glad to see so many of you here for Breakfast With the Mayor.

I have a number of issues to speak about this morning, and I’ll take questions from the audience after I’ve given you an update.

First up, the Popp’s Ferry bridge. As many of you know, the day after the collision I’d asked MDOT to get this bridge up and running in weeks and not months, and I asked them to try to get it done in 60 days.

Today, I am pleased to report that our partners at MDOT are making excellent progress. Our City Engineer met with them on Friday in Jackson, and here’s the good news.

All the materials that could be ordered have been ordered. Specifications are being done right now.
The project will be advertised on an accelerated schedule – five days instead of the normal 30 days – and it will be awarded after those five days.

The schedule will call for the bridge to be re-opened to traffic in early May.

We have re-surfaced Irish Hill, and we’re working on Popp’s Ferry Road south of the bridge to Pass Road, and we’ll be doing all of Pass Road in the next several weeks.

Our plan is to work at night to minimize the impact on traffic.

Some people say that we’re doing this because the election is coming up.

To be honest, we could have done this work a year ago, but I wanted to wait until the reconstruction of Highway 90 was complete, which is what we did.

To be even more honest, I didn’t want to have all of our east-west corridors under construction at the same time – especially with an election coming up.

You’re going to see this same type of coordination – and even more, in fact – when we crank up our Restore Biloxi project.

That’s the 355 million dollar project that will replace all of the roads, sidewalks, curbing, water wells, and lift stations that went underwater in Hurricane Katrina.

The City Council has approved the hiring of 17 engineering and design firms to work on this project.

We’re working through the FEMA and MEMA processes to assign projects to them, and you’ll see construction underway in the next few months.

This project is expected to take several years and we fully expect the price could approach $450 million when all is said and done

This will be the largest public work project in the history of Biloxi, and we’re making sure to do it right, so that FEMA pays for all of it.

To put it in context for you, we were averaging $16 million a year on major improvement projects each year before the storm.

Now, we’re looking at $355 million. If you do the math, that would take 22 years.

We’re looking to do it in five to seven years. The good news is that we’ll have brand-new roads and infrastructure that will serve us well for the next 50 to 60 years.
Now, as far as the coordination, we’re going to be having neighborhood meetings throughout the city before we start work on anybody’s roads.

We want you to know what we’re doing and when we’re going to do it.

In some areas of the city, the roadwork will be as big as the project we have going on on Howard Avenue right now.

That’s a 2.85 million dollar project where we’re rebuilding the entire road, and all of the water, sewer and drainage lines under that road.

The work is from Dukate to Holley, and we’re looking be complete in the next couple of months.

This summer, you’ll see restoration projects underway at the Biloxi Lighthouse, Magnolia Hotel, the Saenger Theater, City Hall, the Old Brick House and the fire museum.

These three projects, which account for about a million dollars in FEMA funds, have been working their way through the extra levels of approvals you need when you work on historic properties.

I also anticipate that the price tag will end up being well over a million dollars for this restoration work because work on historic properties usually costs more than a regular building.

We have a great deal more to talk about, like the new Visitors Center and Library and Civic Center, but I want to stop and give you some time for questions.