Section of Old Hwy 49 could reopen within 45 days

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A section of Old Highway 49 in Gulfport has been closed since May because the road was in danger of collapsing. A box culvert built in 1936 was in danger of collapsing.

But now, the Gulfport Utility Department is on the job. The old box culvert has been ripped out, a section of Old Highway 49 removed and the sub-base for the new culvert is in the final stages.

Despite the on going work, members of Kenwood Baptist Church have a major concern. A big ditch runs along side the church, parallel to Old Highway 49. Over the past 27 years, the ditch has overflowed, resulting in flood waters getting inside the church.

"Since 1985 we've been flooded about four times and had as much as two foot of water in our church at one time," Kenwood Baptist Church member Glenn Westbrook said. "Last time we got about 8 to 10 inches in it and it's been a growing problem since 1985."

Gulfport Utility Department construction foreman Robert Cooley said the city was hoping to move the culvert closer to Robinson Road, but the city and Kansas City Railroad officials couldn't reach an agreement.

So the new culvert is replacing the old one and hopefully this $120,000 project will take care of the flooding issue.

"I believe it will," Cooley said. "Even though we didn't get to move it where we needed to, it's still going to be directed toward the south and back towards the east. But we are putting in a larger culvert. I believe it was a 6x10 that I pulled out that was collapsed and I'm putting back 8x10 double-barrel culvert."

Cooley expects the project should take another 45 days, depending on weather conditions. That's great news for Kenwood Baptist Church members and residents in the area, including those living in Kenwood subdivision where traffic has been re-routed from Old Highway 49 for the past six months.

Westbrook stated with a smile on his face, "It will definitely be a blessing.

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