Road workers racing toward November milestones

October marks the home stretch for two major milestones: The paving of Division Street, and the re-opening of Howard Avenue to two-way traffic between Reynoir and Lameuse streets.

Both of the accomplishments are expected by the end of October.

“Division Street is the backbone of the infrastructure work north of the railway,” said Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich. “It has also been one of the most difficult of all the difficult aspects of this project. Oscar Renda crews have had to dig down as far as 25 and 30 feet below the surface to install sewer lines.”

Oscar Renda’s paving contractor, Warren Paving, began applying asphalt to Division between Bohn and Lameuse streets earlier this week. Between Main and Division, the last block of Division without paving, workers are continuing to wrestle with utility lines eight feet below the surface of the street. 

And on the Howard Avenue restoration project, workers with Gulf Breeze Landscaping this morning began installing the bricks that will make up the surface of the street and expect to have it completed by the end of the month. 

“The project is really beginning to become visibly appealing,” said Andy Phelan of Pickering Firm, who designed the streetscape from ’50s and ’60s-era photos Gilich provided. “The majority of curb and sidewalk are complete and a large portion of the road base has been set to final grade and compacted. Areas of concrete angled parking are complete, and a large portion of the new light poles are standing up on site.”

The bricks, which will cover the travel lanes, will have a herringbone pattern for the majority of the road with a double “string course,” or straight longitudinal brick runs, along the gutters and concrete aprons, Phelan said.

The “new” Howard Avenue will even have a throwback to the “old” Howard Avenue, as Gilich was able to locate bricks from the original street.

Meantime, further down Howard Avenue, near Benachi and Querens, workers installing sewer lines 22 feet below ground are continuing to grapple with phone and gas lines that were on no plans.

On U.S. 90, Hemphill crews are restoring sidewalks where water lines were added along the north side of U.S. 90. Contractors and the city, incidentally, still have not been given the go-ahead to resume work south of the Biloxi City Cemetery, where work stopped five month ago today, on April 20, when bones were unearthed during construction. 

Said Gilich: “There have been unforeseen challenges on each one of these projects, on front beach, downtown and south and north of the tracks. Most of it is related to this being the oldest infrastructure in the city. We’re working through every one of these challenges and staying focused on making progress every day.”
Video: See the bricks going down on Howard Avenue
Video: See the status report on infrastructure work
Gallery: Views of the bricks on Howard
Video: Paving on Division at Bohn Street
Maps: See the details status of infrastructure work


MEMA director sees progress first hand

Greg Michel, who only 90 days ago was appointed the new head of MEMA, was in Biloxi last week to get a firsthand look at Biloxi’s massive infrastructure work.

“This was my first opportunity to view the project in the field,” said Michel, who served for nearly 30 years in Mississippi National Guard and as commander of Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg where he was involved in disaster and response to the 2017 Pine Belt Area tornado. “Seeing intricate and complex projects like this first hand provided me helpful insight when mitigating issues between the municipality and FEMA.”

Gilich gave Michel, along with Clayton French MEMA public assistant director, a tour of the infrastructure areas north and south of the CSX railway. Workers are replacing water and sewer lines and installing drainage systems before installing sidewalks, curbing and repaving streets. The northern part of the project, where contractor Oscar Renda is responsible for 55 miles of streets, has a contracted deadline of Dec. 21, but contract extensions are expected.

South of the railway, crews with Hemphill Construction are continuing to progress on the 800-day, $23 million contract. They are finishing up with the storm drain on Hopkins Boulevard and Seal Avenue.  Crew will soon be preparing those roads for the base layer of asphalt. 

“It is a very complicated project,” Michel said, “and Mayor Gilich along with his team are working as hard and as efficiently as this agency has seen since the project began.  As a bonus, Mayor Gilich provided me some history about the coast while we toured the project. It’s always a pleasure to get to the Mississippi Gulf Coast!”
Gallery: See images from the visit