Howard Avenue work underway; more on the way

Work is well underway on the reconstruction of Howard Avenue in east Biloxi, a pre-cursor to the $355 million in infrastructure work the city is planning over the next several years.

The Howard Avenue project, which is being funded by $2.8 million in federal money, includes the installation of larger water, sewer and drainage pipes; new sidewalks and curbing; and moving most of the utility poles to the south side of the street.

Work began several weeks ago and is expected to be completed in May.

Howard Avenue is one of the oldest in Biloxi, as evidenced by the trolley tracks that construction crews have unearthed down the center of road’s under bed.

“These tracks actually had been supporting the roadway in places where sand had seeped into broken drainage lines,” said City Engineer Damon Torricelli. “We knew the tracks were there, but any time we work on a street as old as Howard Avenue, we’re going to discover some things that are not on any existing drawings.”

A sign of things to come

The Howard Avenue work is a preview of the road construction work that residents can expect to see in many areas of the city as the city prepares to embark on a $355 million project that will see the repair or replacement of all the streets, curbs, sidewalks, water wells and lift stations that were in the Katrina storm surge.

“In essence,” says Mayor A.J. Holloway, “if it went underwater, we’re replacing it.”

The administration has recommended the hiring of a project management firm to oversee the massive work.

“This project is expected to take several years and we fully expect the price could approach $450 million when all is said and done,” Holloway said. “This will be the largest public work project in the history of Biloxi. To put it in context for you, we were averaging $16 million a year on major improvement projects each year before the storm. Now, we’re looking at $355 million. If you do the math, that would take 22 years.

“We’re looking to do it in five to seven years. The good news is that we’ll have brand-new roads and infrastructure that will serve us well for the next 50 to 60 years.”

The next step

Last month, the administration approached the City Council for approval to hire a nationally-renowned firm, HNTB Corp. of Dallas, to oversee the project. HNTB is an employee-owned organization of infrastructure entities known for their work in transportation, bridges, aviation, architecture, municipal engineering and urban design and planning. The firm’s subsidiaries, which employ more than 3,000 people in more than 60 offices nationwide, consist of HNTB Corp., an engineering, planning and construction management firm; HNTB Architecture Inc., whose design professionals serve aviation, corporate, education, federal and local government clients; and HNTB Federal Services Corporation, which provides federal-sector clients diverse infrastructure services

Although the City Council has tabled the measure, Public Works Director Richard Sullivan last week asked council members to move forward on the hiring of the firm.

Said Sullivan: “Some of our water wells and lift stations damaged in the surge zones are still having to be operated manually day and night. Lines are collapsing under the roadways, and we’re having to make repairs when we should be replacing these lines. This is work we need to get started on.”

More online

To read background on the $355 million infrastructure project, click here.

To read more about the firm HNTB,
click here.