Popp’s Ferry bridge may open around first of year

Motorists may be able to resume traveling across the Popp’s Ferry bridge around the first of the year, a month ahead of schedule, Mayor A.J. Holloway announced this afternoon.

Holloway said Key Constructors, a Madison firm that was awarded a $7.65 million repair contract barely a month ago, has had a 20-person crew working as many as 13 hours a day, seven days a week to repair the west Biloxi artery, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

“I want to congratulate Rick Webster, the CEO of Key Constructors, and the dedicated team that has been working so hard to get this vital route back up and running,” Holloway said. “They promised to get right on this job and stick with it, and, barring any issues in the next few weeks, they are well on their way to a big payday.”

Under the terms of the repair contract, which Holloway approached the Federal Highway Administration and MDOT to fund, Key stands to receive a half-million-dollar bonus for completing work so far ahead of schedule. The contract called for a penalty of $50,000 a day for each day the project exceeded its 100-day schedule or a bonus of $50,000 for each day under the 100-day timeframe, with the bonus capped at $500,000.

“This news from Key is an early Christmas present for motorists who have been forced to take time-consuming detours since the storm,” Holloway said. “These workers are earning their money, and I certainly hope the progress continues.”

In addition to the Key agreement, a contract for $497,000 had been awarded to Neel-Schaffer, an engineering firm, to oversee the bridge work.

Popp’s Ferry bridge, which carried more than 20,000 vehicles on an average pre-Katrina day, is one of two Biloxi bridges smashed by Hurricane Katrina. The U.S. 90 bridge, which connects Biloxi and Ocean Springs, is expected to partially open late next year.