Businesses Hope to Be Booming When Cars Start Rolling

The new Bayou Portage Bridge is finally completed after years of inconvenience and construction.

The bridge opened to traffic Friday morning at 6 a.m. Crews have spent almost two years building the Henderson Avenue Bridge just North of Pass Christian.

Business owners say the detours put a dent in their cash flow but are happy to see the bridge reopening.

Business boomed at Emile Garlepied's Movie Rental and Tanning Salon for the first two or so years he was open at the corner of Henderson Avenue and St. Louis Street. All that changed when the Bayou Portage Bridge closed over a year and a half ago.

"It's totally cut out 85 % of our traffic. It's totally just hurt us and every business in this area." said Garlepied.

Business at a nearby car wash pretty much dried up as well. Paul Cook co-owns the business.

"It was devastating we lost about 50 % of our business, and this has been since October of 2002. We actually had to go back and refinance. Everything is working out but it's just ridiculous how long it took."

Cook tried to make the best of it with a "Bridge Out Special". But as drivers detoured away, only about 7,000 cars a week passed by Cooks business, instead of the 19,000 that drove by over a year and a half ago.

"You don't put a business somewhere if you don't have the traffic count that you need," Cook said.

The business owners say they understand the need for a larger and safer bridge for the community. But what they say they don't understand is why the project took so long.

"They kept saying they we're waiting on barrens, waiting on a draw, waiting on materials why wasn't that ever gotten to the site before this bridge was ever torn down." Garlepied told WLOX News.

All that put the $6 million project two months behind schedule.

Harrison County District 3 Supervisor Marlin Ladner, sympathized with the business owners.

"I'm well aware of the frustration of the citizens as well as I've been frustrated by it. I've been concerned about it I think the project has gone on a little too long . However there are things that occur that we just don't have any control of."

Business owners hope when the road closed sign is gone their customers will come back. Supervisor Ladner says he's glad the bridge is opening before the start of Hurricane Season, because Henderson Avenue is a major evacuation route.

By: Al Showers