City lifts curfew; motorists should exercise caution, patience

Mayor A.J. Holloway this afternoon lifted the 11 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew that had been in effect in Biloxi since Hurricane Katrina struck Aug. 29.

Holloway made the decision after consulting Police Chief Bruce Dunagan and Assistant Chief Rodney McGilvary.

“We’ve lifted the curfew,” Holloway said, “but motorists should continue to use caution since so many of our roadways and neighborhoods are lined with storm debris.
“We also have hundreds of debris workers using heavy machinery on streets throughout the city. People need to be especially careful when driving at night because we still have a number of traffic signals and street lights out.”

Holloway said motorists should limit travel when possible, and drivers should expect delays since thousands of motorists are using a limited number of east-west and north-south corridors.

U.S. 90, which carried more than 40,000 vehicles on an average pre-storm day, is expected to remain closed for another two weeks. On the I-110 bridge, which had averaged more than 50,000 vehicles on a pre-Katrina day, police have been employing a contraflow each afternoon, where three of the bridge’s lanes are northbound to help northbound traffic move quicker. Police may end the contraflow plan once a storm-damaged section of a northbound lane near the bridge’s span is repaired in a week or so.

The storm-damaged Popp’s Ferry bridge in west Biloxi, which had carried nearly 20,000 vehicles a day before the storm, is not expected to re-open until four to six months after repairs begin, and a new U.S. 90 bridge to Ocean Springs –- six lanes and 80-feet above the water at its highest point -– is not expected to be in operation until Thanksgiving of next year.

Remain patient, chief says

Motorists approaching intersections where traffic signals are missing or inoperable should treat those intersections as four-way stops.

“The most important thing is for people to remain patient,” Chief Dunagan said. “Leave early and give yourself plenty of time. Carpool when you can. The fact is, we’ve tried to use officers to direct traffic at busy intersections during peak travel times, but we’ve found that it requires posting officers at several adjoining intersections and it still doesn’t have too much of an impact.

“The bottom line is that there’s not a lot that can be done since we have so many cars on so few roads. Rush hour in the morning and afternoon is going to be slow-moving until we get Highway 90 opened up and all lanes of I-110 are available.

“We’re asking for patience and understanding in the meantime, and I know that the citizens of Biloxi can continue to do that.”