Oscar Renda: Thanksgiving may be D-Day

Oscar Renda Contracting says it’s aiming to have the “north contract” substantially complete around Thanksgiving, meaning “all major items of work to be complete.”

“I’d like to see us reach the substantial completion point in November and certainly no later than December,” said Jennifer Matranga of Oscar Renda Contracting.

The $128 million project began five years ago next month and was supposed to be completed in January of this year, after more than 70 approved change orders added 500 days and $12.8 million to the contract. East Biloxi residents, businesses and motorists, who have endured dusty or muddy dirt roads in the most of the 55 miles of construction, are, for the most part, driving on paved roads these days.

Contractors from Oscar Renda north of the railway and Hemphill Construction south of the railway are working to make sure roadway near Biloxi Public Schools are open. Public schools begin the new school year in August.

For Oscar Renda, all roads east of Lee Street, except a couple neighborhood streets, have final coats of asphalt. A half-dozen streets still lack pavement, and major roadways such as Benachi, Forrest, Elder and parts of Reynoir are still seeing infrastructure work in progress.

However, the days of a heavy thunderstorms turning the streets of East Biloxi into a mud pit are history.

“Flooding has never been an issue, it’s been the mud,” said Councilman Felix Gines, who’s pulled more than two-dozen vehicles from muddy roadways. “That’s been the biggest problem that my community has had, the sloppy conditions of the roadways. That led to many questions being raised about the coordination and organization of the project.

“They’re shooting for November or December? My goal is to see everything east of Caillavet completed by October. I know they can do that.”

Matranga, meantime, said pumps, which were in place and used during previous storms, were not needed during the threat of Tropical Storm Barry, which later became a hurricane.

“These drainage systems worked the way they were designed to work,” she said, but there is something important that people need to remember: “Even with a brand-new, efficient drainage system, parts of East Biloxi are tidally influenced. When the tide is up, and the water in the canal on Benachi, for instance, is above the drainage outfalls, the water has nowhere to go.

“If you live on a peninsula, in a low-lying area, you can elevate your home, but the roads are still going to become inundated in certain circumstances.”
See detailed maps of progress, north and south of railway
Video: Hear directly from the contractors
Video: Infrastructure report to City Council