Coliseum pier to kick off next wave of waterfront repair projects

Biloxi is expected to award a contract to rebuild the Coliseum pier on Tuesday, the first of a new string of construction contracts that will eventually see more than $30 million in repairs to four public piers, two fishing bridges, and completion of ongoing repairs at four public marinas and harbors.

The Coliseum pier – a $283,000, 270-day project – will see the restoration of a 908-foot pier that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. If approved by the City Council on Tuesday, work is expected to be completed in nine months.

The Coliseum pier work is the first of several expected to move forward over the next several weeks and months. The bulk of the estimated $30 million in repair work will involve the fishing bridges at Point Cadet and Back Bay, and finishing of restoration of the city’s four harbors and marinas.

Before Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005, Biloxi offered slips for more than 500 vessels – 425 for recreational craft and 87 commercial vessels – and maintained piers or boat launches at nearly a dozen sites on the Biloxi peninsula.

Today, dozens of vessels have returned to the city harbors and marinas, even while repairs are underway or in the offing. Boat launches are open at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor, Popp’s Ferry causeway, Hiller Park, Kuhn Street, Forest Avenue and at the north end of Lee Street, and city piers are available on Back Bay (Forrest and Porter avenues and the Ice Wharf at Parker Street) and at the Popp’s Ferry causeway.

“We know the importance of providing waterfront access to our residents, visitors and boat owners,” said David Staehling, the city’s Director of Administration. “We’ve had engineering firms working with FEMA and MEMA and other state and federal agencies for months now, and we’re ready to see the projects get under construction.”

A project to restore the Lighthouse Pier – an 865-foot structure south of the Biloxi Lighthouse — is expected to begin construction in October and be completed 180 days later. The project is expected to cost about $350,000. Work on repairing pavilion roofs at the Forrest Avenue and Popp’s Ferry causeway piers is expected to begin in several weeks.

Construction is scheduled to begin by the end of the year on a new Point Cadet fishing bridge and be completed in early 2011. The new fishing bridge will be nearly 4,700 feet long, about 200 feet shorter than the Katrina-destroyed bridge, but it will offer overhead lights that will illuminate the bridge itself and adjoining waters; two 11-foot vehicles lanes bordered by two five-foot, ADA-accessible sidewalks; and vehicle turnarounds at the halfway point and at the end of the bridge.

The same amenities are planned for the Back Bay Fishing bridge, but the city is trying to work out issues that have arisen from the landing of the bridge at Caillavet Street, which has been deemed an historic site.

The total amount of federal money obligated for the two fishing bridges – including removal of the destroyed bridges – is about $12 million.

A timeline of other waterfront work in Biloxi:

— Small Craft Harbor: Construction of boat slips is complete, however, construction of the southernmost wall of the harbor – an area known as Pier D – is scheduled to be completed 60 days after construction begins, pending FEMA and MEMA approval. Estimated cost of repairs to Biloxi Small Craft Harbor: $7 million. Meanwhile, a request-for-proposal for construction and operation of a bait and fuel dock is in the works.

— Point Cadet Marina: Construction is 50 percent complete. All repairs are scheduled to be completed within 10 months, or by April 2010. Estimated cost: $7.3 million.

— Commercial docking facility, west of the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor: Expected to be bid in August, with 180-day construction project beginning as early as October. Estimated cost: $1.4 million.

— Lighthouse Fishing Dock, at north end of Lee Street on Back Bay: 180-day construction project scheduled to begin in September. Estimated cost: $1.3 million.