BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - At midnight, Joe McGee Construction will begin the arduous task of repairing a 900 foot hole in the Popp's Ferry Bridge.
"This is further indication of how important this bridge is to our day-to-day traffic, and we're not losing a minute in getting it back in operation," said Mayor A.J. Holloway, who originally contacted the Mississippi Department of Transportation about repairing and re-opening the bridge, which was struck by a barge March 20.
What makes this project so daunting is that both the city of Biloxi, and the state of Mississippi have told the contractor they want the bridge reopened in less than three weeks.
Casey Graham says his company is up to the challenge. His company won an expedited bid process to fix the 900 foot hole in the Popp's Ferry Bridge.
"Just to put the bridge back. That's what we do," the project engineer said.
Graham is a man of a few words. In this case, brevity is a good thing. McGee Construction has a very limited period of time to orchestrate and complete the reconstruction of the Popp's Ferry Bridge.
"I figured it would take about 25 days to put it back," said Graham, remember what he originally thought when he analyzed the project.
MDOT had a much different goal in mind. The deadline to fix the two missing sections, lower the draw, raise traffic guard gate, and get cars back onto a main Biloxi artery is April 29.
Graham said the 18 day timeframe was doable, as long as he brings in "a lot of people. A lot of equipment."
Starting at midnight, a crew of 40 will work 24 hours a day to rebuild the two missing sections of the bridge.
"We'll start driving piles and taking debris out of the water," Graham explained.
In a city news release, Mayor Holloway added, "I fully expect that pile driving will begin well before daylight Saturday, and I apologize to residents in the area of this temporary inconvenience."
A survey boat spent Friday in the back bay, checking the area for any remaining debris that could hinder bridge reconstruction work. Debris and weather appear to be the construction team's biggest obstacles.
Kenny Franklin is the risk manager on site. He said, "Mother Nature is going to play a large part of it."
Graham worked on the Bay St. Louis bridge right after Katrina. This is a much smaller project. But Graham knows it's just as significant to the people who drive over the Popp's Ferry Bridge every day.
As he headed back to his camper, somebody wished Graham and his crew luck.
"Appreciate it. We're going to need it," he said.
Most of the Popp's Ferry Bridge debris has already been pulled out of the back bay. However, there is still a deck span about 40 feet below the surface of the bay that crews must remove this weekend. Graham is pretty sure that under that concrete is the one car that fell into the water the morning a barge slammed into this bridge.