Following up: CSX rail crossings, Howard Avenue and more

Thursday, March 7, 2019 marked the second anniversary of the deadly train-charter bus collision at the Main Street crossing, where four people died when a freight train collided with a charter bus carrying 48 passengers that had become hung up on the rail at the crossing.

In the wake of the tragedy, the city upgraded signage at crossings in Biloxi with low clearance warnings at all 29 crossings in the eight-mile stretch of railway running the length of the Biloxi peninsula. Additionally, the city installed signs that prohibit buses, RVs, and trucks from using crossings at Main, Lameuse, Porter, and Iberville.

Discussions for more improvements have also continued with the CSX and state and federal authorities who oversee rail crossings. The city, which has hired lawyers specializing in rail crossing issues, has requested CSX make improvements to all crossings, especially Main Street, and federal funds are being used to improve Esters Boulevard adjacent to the railway in East Biloxi with a goal of closing six of the 21 crossings in the two-mile stretch between Keesler and Point Cadet.

Here’s the status from Christy LeBatard, director of the city’s Engineering Department:

“The Main Street crossing project will begin design as soon as we receive the Memorandum of Understanding from MDOT authorizing the project, which I expect to have any day now. The project will raise the elevation of Main Street on the north side of the track to help alleviate large trucks from getting stuck on the tracks. The project is estimated to cost $300,000 with the city paying 20 percent or $60,000 of the cost. We are trying to have this project under construction before the end of the year.

“The other railway project, which includes construction of a new parallel road north of the railway, from Crawford to Delauney streets, should be ready to bid for construction by the Summer. In that project, we’re initially closing the crossings at Dorries, Holley and Nixon streets once the road is constructed. We are having to acquire a couple pieces of property, which is currently on-going, and we estimate the project is going to cost just over $1 million. It is being funded with federal Community Development Block Grant funds.”
Map: The rail crossings and proposed closings


Following up: The ‘temporary’ paving on Howard Avenue

So Jack Gratwick and his crew at Hemphill Construction were able to have temporary pavement on Howard Avenue east of Porter Avenue in place in time for the Mardi Gras parade on Tuesday.

And now, the big question: How long will the temporary pavement be in place and what’s the status of the work on Howard? Says Gratwick: “Temporary asphalt on Howard will remain in place for a couple months while we finish work in the surrounding areas. We are about 75 percent complete with all work on Howard.”

Meanwhile, at the eastern end of Howard Avenue, on the downtown restoration efforts, contractors this morning began installing a pedestrian brick walkway in front of Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home, near the new intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Howard Avenue. No word yet from Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich on when the overall downtown roadway will formally open to the public.
Video: See the temporary paving on Howard
Video: See the monthly progress report
Video: See the walkway work this morning



Following up: Woolmarket City Center, causeway park

The city is “very close” to resuming work on the Woolmarket City Center, where the facade will be upgraded on the Kayleigh Cove building that houses a county public library and city community center. The library, which replaced a library that has been housed in a small trailer, has been open for months. 

On Popp’s Ferry Causeway Park, where the city used BP funds to make $4 million in improvements, Biloxi’s Chief Administrative Officer Mike Leonard reports the city is not yet ready to announce an opening date of the bait shop, which also will include a restaurant and bar. The improved area of the park is open 24/7 to pedestrians, he added, but a vehicular gate closes at 4 p.m. daily. Said the CAO: “We have the daylight savings time shift coming up, so I’m going to ask Public Works to change the sign on the park’s vehicular gate to read 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.  I prefer no public notice about the bait shop opening until they are ready for full service.”
See the Woolmarket City Center: Before and after
Video: A visit to Popp’s Ferry Causeway Park