MDOT's mission is complete: "It's great having the highway back"

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - For the businesses that rely on Highway 90 to bring traffic to the shoreline, a Friday celebration at Biloxi's Town Green was long overdue.  MDOT hosted a party to mark the end of the Highway 90 reconstruction project.

As you might imagine, the last couple of years have been a struggle for Highway 90 businesses and tourist attractions.  A maze of construction cones constantly messed up the highway.  So drivers often avoided the area.  The completion of the reconstruction work has brought those drivers back to the beach.

The Hooters on Biloxi's beachfront reopened during the latter stages of the Highway 90 reconstruction project.  As a matter of fact, the roadway in front of the restaurant was one of the last sections of highway to be rebuilt. Initially, that took quite a bite out of business.  Peter Meleones is the restaurant's director of operations.

"It was rough.  We weren't getting a lot of traffic driving by," he said.  "People really had to make Hooters a destination to come out here."

But when all four lanes of Highway 90, and a new service road finally opened last month, customers quickly rediscovered Meleones' diner.

"It's just been great.  Because it's easy to get in and out of here now," he said.

At nearby Beauvoir, museum staff members watched the highway reconstruction from Jefferson Davis' porch.  The complex's curator is Richard Flowers.  He lives in Bay St. Louis.  Highway 90 is normally the easiest way for him to drive to work.  That changed while MDOT repaired Hurricane Katrina's highway damage.

"I took the interstate every day.  Twice as long.  But it was worth it to not have the hassle of the construction," Flowers said.

The 18 months it took to repave the entire highway created more than a few nightmares for the museum's staff, because getting tourists here wasn't easy.  However, ever since Highway 90 became a smooth ride again, visitor counts at Beauvoir have jumped 20 percent.

"But it's hard to tell if that's because of Highway 90 or because of the fact that we're one of the few tourism spots left on the coast," said Flowers.

The next big road project in Biloxi begins Sunday night when crews begin re-surfacing Pass Road. Contractors must remove the exisiting asphalt. The work will start at DeBuys Road and move east. It's expected to take several weeks. The good news for drivers is that the work will be done at night to minimize traffic tie ups.

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