Q&A: Spring break and the traffic plan

Biloxi residents, motorists, businesses and public safety workers are preparing for more visitors – police say as many as 125,000 – and heavy traffic April 13-15 in connection with an influx of visitors. 

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?

There are actually two known promoters of Spring Break. One has events at the Coast Coliseum, while the other focuses on renting parking spaces in vacant fields several blocks east and west of the facility, promoted as “Park-n-Play” locations, on privately-owned property, originally at 2450 and 2506 Beach Blvd. on U.S. 90, but expanding to other lots. See the list of vendors and front-beach property owners who help make Spring Break possible.

The interest in Spring Break is driven online, especially on social media. The online sites – one has more than 105,000 followers – 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,” “Mississippi Coast Spring Fest,” 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 may run longer each day.  The primary reason is social media, offering daily doses of racy videos, photos and promises of an unending party.

The Coliseum events?

The Coast Coliseum 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 9 p.m., the Coliseum will host “The Official Black Beach Weekend Kickoff Party,” with a twerk contest. Admission ranges from $25 to $55, plus tax and fees.

On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Coliseum will host the Fifth Annual Spring Break Car & Bike Show, with free admission. A $20 per vehicle parking fee will be charged.  A disc jockey will entertain, and food and merchandise booths will be set up on the Coliseum grounds. The activities throughout the day preface a concert that evening. Coliseum doors open at 5 p.m. for the Lil Wayne-headlined concert, which begins at 7 p.m. and is expected to end about 12:30 a.m.  Also, those scheduled to perform during the show, titled Gulf Coast Spring Fest 2K18, are Yo Gotti, Rick Ross, 2Chainz, Jeezy, and Moneybagg Yo. After the concert, the Gulf Coast Spring Fest After Party will be held from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. at the Coliseum.

In the past, traffic volumes have decreased on U.S. 90 around 10 o’clock Saturday night, 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.

Then on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Coliseum hosts Rehab day party with free admission, live performances and boiled crawfish and shrimp platters. Parking is $20 on Sunday.
See the Coast Coliseum’s entire Spring Break lineup

The non-Coliseum events?

The events bring promoted online as taking place at “Park-N-Play” lots, reported at 2450 and 2506 Beach Blvd.,  are Friday, April 13, from 2 p.m. until, a volleyball tournament, discount jet ski and water boats rentals, a row of food vendors and pop-up shops. On Saturday from 11 a.m. until, events being promoted online at Park-n-Play lots are a Dance-Off, Spade Tournament, Foam Party, Co-Ed Tug-a-War, vendors and pop-up shops. Then, on Sunday, from 11 a.m. until, the lots are promoting a “Bon Voyage Day Party,” with vendors and pop-up shops. The vendors must obtain temporary business licenses from the city’s Community Development Department.

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 and continue throughout the weekend. In 2017, traffic did not begin subsiding until late Sunday evening.

How does the traffic plan work?

The Spring Break plan has several phases or stages that are implemented as needed. The basic tenet of the 2018 Spring Break traffic plan is that traffic on U.S. 90 will be limited to one lane eastbound and one-lane westbound from I-110 to Cowan Road in Gulfport. The outer, righthand lanes will be for motorists and the interior, left lanes will be reserved for emergency vehicles. Motorists who venture into the left lane will likely be ticketed and or have their vehicle towed. 

The Spring Break traffic plan also involves restricting the use of left lanes, closing intersections, and limiting access to U.S. 90 from connecting streets. 

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. Officers will then direct the stream of motorists to I-10; no turns or stopping will be allowed during venting. 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 B-Alert system (text SPBK to 888777 to receive advisories), Facebook page (www.facebook.com/cobiloxi and adjust settings to make Biloxi show up first in your newsfeed), and through local media, especially when traffic is “vented” during the weekend. The city’s Info Line – (228) 435-6300 – also will be updated as needed throughout the weekend.

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 Biloxi Police Department implements traffic plans for special events to keep traffic flowing safely and to make sure roadways are accessible to emergency responders. Biloxi also employs traffic plans for such events as Mardi Gras, Cruisin’ the Coast, Scrapin’ the Coast, St. Patrick’s Day and others. 

Traffic plans are tailored to each event, depending on its size and location; however, all variations involve U.S. 90, or Beach Boulevard, the major east-west artery serving Biloxi. See the traffic plans for recent events.

In previous years, Spring Break has gridlocked all lanes of eastbound and westbound traffic on U.S. 90, meaning that first reponders were unable to respond to emergency 911 calls. The plan ensures that one eastbound and one westbound lane will reserved for emergency vehicles.

When will the plan be implemented?

The city’s Public Works Department will place traffic cones and barricades on U.S. 90 on Friday, April 13 and traffic will be limited to one-lane eastbound and one-lane westbound until late in the day on Sunday, April 15. Additionally on Friday, crews will pre-position barricades near intersections along U.S. 90. Police will monitor the volume and flow of traffic throughout the weekend, and when traffic becomes heavy, many intersections will close, prohibiting lefthand turns, in order to keep traffic flowing. 

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 via I-110 or Cowan Road. 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 send advance notifications via B-Alert and local media about venting, and the venting 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?

Traffic will be heavy throughout the city. Plan for extra travel time. Here’s the best advice: Avoid U.S. 90:

— Use alternate routes, such as Pass Road, Irish Hill, Division Street, Popp’s Ferry Road or even Interstate 10.

— 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 U.S. 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.  Police advise to plan for extra travel time if you work at a business on U.S. 90.

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 B-Alert system (text SPBK to 888777 to receive advisories), Facebook page (www.facebook.com/cobiloxi and adjust settings to make Biloxi show up first in your newsfeed), 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.

Law enforcement leaders 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 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.


What about city services, such as trash, garbage and recycling on Friday, April 13? 

Pickup on Friday along U.S. 90, which usually occurs mid-morning or later in the day, will begin at 6 a.m., so U.S. 90 residents should place garbage and recycling carts and trash at curbside Thursday night to ensure pickup. The city is also working with Waste Management to have a litter patrol, traffic permittng, on the north side of U.S. 90 on Sunday afternoon from 1 to 4, from the Coast Coliseum to Edgewater Mall.