Popps Ferry bridge detour sending business the wrong way

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - On Wednesday, MDOT will open bids, and select a company to rebuild the Popps Ferry bridge.   A month or so after that, the broken spans should be replaced.  And traffic will once again be rolling over the back bay bridge.

Until then, Popps Ferry Road business owners will do what they can to keep their heads above water.  Since the bridge shut down, business at shops along Popps Ferry Road is off by as much as 40 percent.

For those businesses, the timing of the accident was horrible.  Places like Grains of Montana were just coming out of their winter slumps.  In fact, lunch orders at north Biloxi restaurant were up.  This Popps Ferry Road business seemed to be on fire.  Mike Dixon is the store's manager.  "It was really turning up, looking ahead.  And the bridge hits," he said.  "Now we're back into December, January,  February mode because of traffic count."

Without a road linking north Biloxi to the city's peninsula, traffic in front of the Popps Ferry Road shop has hit the brakes.  "We're struggling right now to keep the doors open.  We will keep the doors open.  But we want to reap a little reward for going through the three tough months.  Now, it's just a struggle," said Dixon.

Merchants up and down Popps Ferry Road feel virtually cut off from the rest of the world.  Eric Lofland runs a lawnmower sales and repair shop.  "Yes it's slowed down quite a bit.  The drive by traffic is next to nothing now," said Lofland.

Their customers have had two-and-a-half weeks to adjust to Popps Ferry detour signs.   And that's made it a bit easier to weed out who can be counted on to stop by and spend some cash.  "All we can do is hang on and hope that they get it fixed soon," Lofland said.

Bridge reconstruction could begin late this week.  The missing spans should be replaced by early May.  By then, businesses will be starving for more traffic to roll past their stores.

"It's a win-win situation if we can get us a bridge to get to us," Dixon said.  "But we've got to be patient.  There's nothing we can do about it.  That's the bottom line."

While repairing a chain saw, Lofland said, "I just want to see the bridge back up and going.  We need it."

An MDOT spokesman says construction equipment could be at the Popps Ferry Bridge by the end of the week.

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