Q&A about spring break and the traffic plan

Biloxi residents, motorists, businesses and public safety workers are preparing for more visitors and heavy traffic this weekend in connection with an influx of visitors for Spring Break events.

Here are frequently asked questions and answers about the event and steps the city takes to keep traffic moving:

Who puts on Spring Break, and why does it have different names?

The interest in Spring Break is driven by various sites on social media and websites. The online posts promote various parties at various public and private venues, under loosely organized themes of “Biloxi Black Beach,” “Black Spring Break,” “Mississippi Gulf Coast Spring Break” or merely “Black Beach Weekend.” For consistency, the city refers to the event as “Spring Break.”

What’s different this year?

There are several differences this year that lead police to believe crowds may be larger, traffic may be heavier and congestion will run longer each day. 

For instance, MGM Park, the downtown Biloxi entertainment venue, will host a concert by Lil Uzi Vert Friday night and the Coast Coliseum will feature a concert by Lil Boosie and others Saturday evening.

The Coast Coliseum, as usual, will be Spring Break headquarters. Gates to the west beach venue will be open all day Friday, with a parking fee beginning at 4 p.m. At 8 p.m., doors to the Convention Center open for a show featuring a DJ and twerk contest expected to run until about 2 a.m.

Gates to the Coliseum open Saturday at 10 a.m. and a $20 per carload parking fee will be charged.  There will be outdoor musical acts and a car show beginning at 1 p.m.  Coliseum doors open at 6 p.m. for the Lil Boosie-headlined concert, which begins at 7:30 p.m. and is expected to end about 12:30 a.m.  An after-party will then be held in the Convention Center until around 2:30 a.m.

A couple of beachfront restaurants on west beach U.S. 90 are expected to remain open until 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, which is expected to attract more spring breakers into the early morning hours.

In the past, traffic volumes have decreased around 10 p.m., when front beach parking bays close, but the concerts and late-night after-parties are expected to boost the volume of traffic well past midnight.

When will traffic pick up and be at its heaviest?

The volume of traffic is expected to begin picking up around noon on Friday and continue increasing until late in the evening, on Saturday as well. Traffic will begin subsiding Sunday around noon.

Why is there a traffic plan?

City leaders want everyone to have a great time for any special event they are attending in the city.

The traffic plan was developed by local authorities to keep traffic flowing safely and to make sure roadways were accessible to emergency responders. Biloxi also employs a traffic plan for such events as Mardi Gras, Cruisin’ the Coast, Scrapin’ the Coast and others.

While the plans may be modified for each event, depending on its size and location, all variations involve U.S. 90, or Beach Boulevard, the major east-west artery serving Biloxi, and involve controlling the flow of traffic.

The plan has several phases or stages that are implemented as needed. Those stages include restricting the use of left turn lanes, closing intersections, and limiting access to U.S. 90 from connecting streets. In the past, U.S. 90 was reduced to one eastbound lane and one westbound lane and the remaining lanes each direction were reserved for public safety vehicles, but police do not expect to limit traffic to that degree because four-wheelers and officers on motorcycles are used to navigate traffic.

In some instances, traffic congestion may prompt local authorities to “vent” traffic, funneling it to I-110 to the east and to Cowan Road to the west.

Venting, when it occurs, usually continues for 30 to 45 minutes or until traffic is flowing again. The purpose is to avoid gridlock and keep traffic moving at a safe-yet-steady pace.

Local authorities will make a decision when and if the overall traffic plan will be implemented based on the volume and flow of traffic. The public will be notified through the city’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/cobiloxi and adjust settings to make Biloxi show up first in your newsfeed), and through local media,  especially if traffic is “vented” during the weekend. The city’s Info Line – (228) 435-6300 – also will be updated as needed throughout the weekend.

When will the plan be implemented?

Initial phases of the plan may not even be noticed when they are implemented. They involve pre-positioning barricades near intersections along U.S. 90, monitoring the volume and flow of traffic into Biloxi, and continuing to monitor the volume and flow on U.S. 90 and on nearby thoroughfares. The volume and flow of traffic will dictate further implementation of the plan.

I have heard that if I show my local driver’s license then I can get to my home or place of employment during the traffic plan. Is this true?

It depends. Police officers are going to try to work with drivers to get them where they are trying to go. However, if enhanced phases of the traffic plan are employed, such as limited lane usage or “venting” is underway, motorists on U.S. 90 may find themselves being funneled toward I-10. Venting will be employed only as needed to relieve congestion, and if officers tried to accommodate every motorist during the venting process, traffic would be brought to a standstill, defeating the purpose of the plan. Every effort will be made to notify local media in advance about venting, and the process will be used only when needed.

I live in Biloxi and want to avoid getting caught up in the traffic. What advice do you have for me?

Here’s the best advice: Avoid U.S. 90:

— Use alternate routes, such as Pass Road, Irish Hill, Division Street or Popp’s Ferry Road.

— Expect heavy and slow-moving traffic, even on the alternate routes.

— Leave early and carpool when possible. Be patient.

— Exits off Interstate 10 into Biloxi will be open, but are subject to being closed depending on the volume of traffic and whether traffic venting is underway.

— Officers will do their best to work with local residents to get them where they need to go. Motorists must follow the directions of police officers.

I have heard a lot about the spring break traffic plan. I work at a business on Highway 90 in west Biloxi. Will I be able to get to work?

Officers will do the best they can to help traffic get to where it needs to go. In some instances, intersections on U.S. 90 will be blocked, especially in the area between Rodenburg Avenue in Biloxi and Cowan Road in Gulfport, meaning motorists may have to enter businesses from north of U.S. 90, if possible. 

Please explain traffic “venting” to me.

The “venting” process may be needed to relieve congestion on U.S. 90. If authorities determine that “venting” is required, the city will use its Facebook page to communicate with motorists, and local media also will be notified. Most time, venting will merely mean motorists must continue moving either west or east — no turns allowed. During extreme venting, westbound traffic on U.S. 90 at Rodenberg is turned eastward and sent to I-10, and eastbound traffic on U.S. 90 in Gulfport is turned onto Cowan to I-10. From I-10, traffic is funneled either eastward or westward before being allowed to return to Biloxi.

Officials will decide whether to vent based on the volume and flow of traffic on U.S. 90.


What advice do you have for someone visiting Biloxi to take part in Spring Break? 

The City of Biloxi wants everyone to enjoy their visit and have a great time. 

— Dealing with traffic can really take the fun out of your spring break experience. Consider parking your car in a legal space and then plan on walking along the beachfront boardwalk.

— Remember that parking bays on U.S. 90 close at 10 p.m.

— For safety, pedestrians will be able to cross U.S. 90 only at crosswalks. For safety, barricades will limit access to those areas of crosswalks.

— Remember, no glass bottles on the beach.

— Don’t drink and drive. Be patient in traffic.

— Traffic will be slow-moving, so give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination.

— Be respectful of private property, courteous to other drivers, and obey directions of police directing traffic.