Get ready: Spring Break crowds, traffic coming up

Spring Break weekend, when tens of thousands of college-age visitors descend on Biloxi for the weekend, is upon us in a few days, but innkeepers report this weekend shows only a fraction of the number of reservations seen in years  past.

However, motorists on U.S. 90 on Thursday will see Biloxi’s Public Works Department setting up traffic cones in the center lanes of U.S. 90 between I-110 and DeBuys Road. Workers will spend most of the day Thursday, from around 9:30 to about 5:30 p.m., setting up the cones, which are part of the city’s traffic plan for Spring Break.

For visitors, Spring Break is 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 needed.

“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 is the Coast Coliseum, while the other, a few blocks west of the Coast Coliseum, on private property, has traditionally focused on renting parking spaces in vacant fields,  promoted as “Park-n-Play” locations.

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 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.
See the Spring Break traffic plan

Spring Break news & notes: COW, CTA, B-Alert

COW: C-Spire is erecting a COW – the acronym for “cellular on wheels” – in front of Edgewater Mall to help accommodate expected increase in cellphone usage this weekend.

CTA: Coast Transit says the Beachcomber Line ends service at 12:35 p.m. on Friday and will not run Saturday or Sunday. Route 34 Pass Road will have abbreviated hours, shutting down Friday and Saturday at 6:35 p.m., with no C.T. Switzer or mall service after noon. Route 34 will have it usual Sunday service, but may experience delays. Questions? Call CTA at 228-896-8080.

B-Alert: If you haven’t done so yet, now is the time to sign up for B-Alert, so you can receive traffic alerts directly from the city throughout the weekend. It’s simple: On your cellphone, text BILOXI to 888777. Cancel anytime by replying STOP.