Groundbreaking for new Keesler gate is Friday

Local, state and federal officials will join Keesler Air Force Base leaders Friday at 10  a.m. to formally break ground on Phase 1 of an estimated $37 million project to locate a new main entry gate at Division Street and Forrest Avenue. The two-and-half-year project includes an expanded and enhanced boulevard along Division from I-110 to Forrest Avenue.

Among those scheduled for the ceremony, which signals work inside Keesler, from Forrest Avenue westward, will be Congressman Steven Palazzo, Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Keesler Commander Col. Debra Lovette, and Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich.

Keesler’s boundary fence at the western end of Division Street will serve as a backdrop for the ceremony.

The new gate will eliminate a base security concern, help alleviate traffic congestion and provide an economic development corridor for the City of Biloxi.

“This has been dreamed about for years, and together the partners have taken the dream and made it reality,” Mayor Gilich said at a December ceremony at the site. “The new gate was my No. 1 priority upon taking office two years ago, and thanks to the support from Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, Gov. Bryant, Keesler leadership and Congressman Palazzo, we’re gathering Friday to move forward on a project that will advance the long-standing relationship between Biloxi and Keesler. There were many others involved in this process, and we are indebted to every one of them.”

Keesler and Biloxi have contemplated a new main entry gate for more than 15 years. The current gate at White Avenue does not meet modern security standards of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force. Additionally, nearby railroad tracks and advanced security protocols require large trucks to enter through residential areas along Back Bay, contributing to oft-congested traffic flow in all directions. The new gate will eliminate those issues with a broader entryway that includes a new Visitors Center and multiple security screening areas for military, civilian and commercial check-in.

Phase 1 of the project involves property acquisition at Forrest Avenue, and creation of a new roadway from Division onto Keesler toward Larcher Avenue. The City of Biloxi is overseeing Phase 1 work for Keesler through a $7.2 million Mississippi Major Economic Impact Authority Base Enhancement Program grant provided through the Mississippi Development Authority. Other confirmed funding includes $11.7 million in federal money and $10 million in BP settlement money appropriated by the State Legislature. Biloxi is working with federal and state partners to secure the remainder of project funding.

A significant portion of Phase 2 of the project will involve widening Division Street to four lanes with a median, new lighting and sidewalks. It will provide a seamless corridor for all traffic entering and exiting the base via I-110. The improvements to Division will stimulate economic growth along the half-mile pathway and more easily accommodate increased traffic in the event of any future mission expansion at Keesler.


News and notes: Fishy funds, schooners, weekly report, courthouse video

Fire Museum benefit: More than $1,500 was collected at the West End Hose Co. No. 3 Fish Fry benefit at the museum Friday.  The money will help keep the museum’s parade trucks in shape and for up grades and maintenance of the museum’s  exhibits. To see images from the event, click here

Great Schooner race:  Mayors Andrew “FoFo” Gilich of Biloxi and Rusty Quave of D’Iberville competed in the Great Biloxi Schooner Mayors Cup on Saturday where the Glenn L. Swetman, captained by Mayor Quave, sailed into the Schooner Pier first.  To see images from the event, click here

The week that was: Last week, the Fire Department answered 128 calls for service, including 90 medical emergencies and six fires; the Police Department handled 2,065 calls for service; the Community Development Department issued 74 building permits with a construction valuation of nearly $875,000; and the Engineering Department continued to progress on projects throughout the city.  To see the reports covering last week, click here. 

Demolition derby:  The demolition continues on the old federal courthouse in downtown Biloxi. To see a video recorded this morning, click here.