Council to eye Howard Avenue widening, rail roads

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich will ask the Biloxi City Council tonight to approve measures involving two major road projects: a $1.52 million, 180-day contract to widen Howard Avenue to two lanes through downtown Biloxi, and a contract to begin design work for new connector roads along the CSX railway in east Biloxi.

The City Council meets this evening at 6 at Biloxi City Hall.

The idea to two-lane Howard Avenue, which has been a one-way street since the failure of urban renewals years ago, has been a linchpin in Gilich’s goal of revitalizing downtown Biloxi. The project would include on-street parking and sidewalks on both sides of the thoroughfare, which generations ago had traveled through an active downtown business district. The Howard Avenue project would also see the redesign of the Howard Avenue intersection with MLK Boulevard near Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home, to allow motorists to more easily travel through downtown Biloxi.

The resolution would award the contract to Gulf Breeze Landscaping of Gautier.

Gilich will also be asking the council to approve a $200,000 measure to begin design work for new roadways along the CSX Railway, a move that will eventually lead to the closure of six rail crossings in Biloxi.

The move arrives nearly one year to the day that a CSX freight train rammed into a charter bus carrying 51 people to a nearby casino. Four people died in the accident, which came weeks after Gilich had first called for the closure of some of the 29 rail crossings in 8.2-mile stretch of railway in Biloxi. Twenty-one of the crossings are east of Keesler Air Force Base, a two-mile stretch.

Gilich is asking the council to approve a contract with the engineering firm Neel-Schaffer to begin the design work for the first phase of the project.

During the initial phase, Neel-Schaffer will design a twenty-two foot, two-lane connector road from Dorries Street to Crawford Street, tying into existing two lane roads east and west of the area.

The design work should be complete by the end of the year and will be funded by a Community Development Block Grant that had the federal government said could not be used for renovations to the Saenger Theatre.

“We are looking to see construction begin and completed next year, ” Gilich said.  “Six crossings have been approved for closure, but first we have to give residents and visitors a way to travel along the area.”

The six crossings approved for closure are Nixon Street, Holley Street, Iroquois Street, Dorries Street, Querens Avenue and Delauney Street. 
See the City Council agenda
See the railroad crossing closure map 


News and notes: Warning sirens, city logo, Ohr fundraiser

Warning sirens:  The city will hold a citywide, minute-long test of its ten sirens on Wednesday at noon. The sirens are part of a system that alerts residents to impending danger such as a tornado and hurricane.  When a threat is in the area, the sirens will sound for three minutes.

Logos R us: Sharped-eyed visitors to the city’s website and Facebook page may have noticed that an R has appeared on the city’s logo. The logo, which the mayor unveiled shortly after becoming mayor, is now trademarked and should be used only with city approval. To see more, click here

Ohr fundraiser:  The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art will host Palate to Palette on Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the east Biloxi museum.   The fundraiser, benefiting the museum’s art education initiatives, will include a five course meal, cooking demonstrations, and Robert and Wyatt with their fourth collaborative cookbook, “A Mississippi Palate: Heritage Cuisine and Watercolors for Home.  For ticket information, call the museum at 228-374-5547.