Get ready: Spring Break crowds, traffic coming up

It’s that time of year again: Spring Break, when tens of thousands of college-age visitors descend on Biloxi for a weekend of fun. And cruisin’ along U.S. 90, primarily in the area of the Coast Coliseum.

This year, judging from online traffic, Spring Break is scheduled to take place April 12-14, with visitors arriving as early as April 11.

For visitors, it’s a chance to walk along the boardwalk, attend events at the Coliseum and other venues, and generally have a good time.

For residents, businesses and police, the event has also created its share of traffic congestion along U.S. 90. In fact, during its inaugural year and again several years later, the event gridlocked traffic on Biloxi’s main beachfront artery, causing delays in emergency responses.

That’s when city leaders unveiled a traffic plan that, if fully implemented, limits U.S. 90 to righthand lanes, eastbound and westbound, with left lanes restricted to emergency vehicles. In some instances, turns are prohibited at intersections to keep traffic flowing, and, if police see traffic nearing gridlock traffic is “vented,” or forced to travel as far away as Interstate 10.

“We want everyone to have a great time, whether it’s Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, Cruisin’, Scrapin’ or any event,” said Biloxi Police Chief John Miller, “but we also need to make sure it’s a safe time, for not only those attending the event, but for everyone else in the city. That’s why we have traffic plans and codes of conduct for major events.”

Police, Miller said, will make sure traffic cones are in place before Spring Break and other event, but the lanes may not be restricted unless need.

“We’ve said all along that these plans are fluid,” Miller said. “If we see no reason to inconvenience people, we won’t. However, once we see traffic becoming an issue, we implement the plan.”

Last year, for instance, lanes were not restricted until later in the day on Friday, when traffic began increasing.

There are actually two known sites of Spring Break. One has events at the Coast Coliseum, while the other focuses on renting parking spaces in vacant fields several blocks east and west of the facility, promoted as “Park-n-Play” locations, on privately-owned property west of the Coast Coliseum.

The interest in Spring Break is driven online, especially on social media. The online sites – one has more than 105,000 followers – promote various parties at various public and private venues, under loosely organized themes of “Biloxi Black Beach,” “Black Spring Break,” “Mississippi Gulf Coast Spring Break,” “Mississippi Coast Spring Fest,” or merely “Black Beach Weekend.” For consistency, the city refers to the event as “Spring Break.”

Spring Break: Q&A and more to do

See the Spring Break traffic plan