HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It is a project that's been in the works for more than a decade. Tuesday, it officially began. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in Biloxi for the start of construction on a new Lorraine Road Bridge.
"Everybody here is One Coast when we do things like this," acting Biloxi Mayor Kenny Glavan said.
It took teamwork between state, Harrison County, Gulfport and Biloxi leaders to get a new $7.5 million bridge off the ground.
"The county started this a little over 12 years ago with the help of Biloxi and Gulfport," Harrison County Supervisor Connie Rockco said. "We made all the land acquisitions, and then we had a little turbulence there at one time, but now we are all working together, because we know the importance of safety for our citizens."
The bridge connecting Gulfport and Biloxi was built in 1975. It was closed in 2013 for four months because of safety concerns, but later reopened with a few minor repairs.
However, it's still not considered safe. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, it's the third most traveled structurally deficient bridge in Mississippi.
"The people who live out here will tell you also it's been a long time coming," Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes said. "Particularly when it floods, this road shuts down, and it's an evacuation issue. It's an access issue, so with this bridge being built at a higher elevation and a better standard, it's going to be much safer."
"When you are talking about people's lives, that's very important," Southern District Transportation Commissioner Tom King said. "It's the utmost importance and the utmost priority."
In addition to being higher, the new bridge, being made of concrete and steel, will be sturdier and, it will eliminate the dangerous 90 degree curve.
"United we stand, divided we fall," Rockco said. "You know, we have such a mighty voice when we are all on the same page. We have to give and take, and that's all part of it, but we really all need to be One Coast, especially on projects. It doesn't mean that we will lose our identity. It only means that we will be stronger."
"We are not going to stop here," Glavan said. "There are many projects in these two great cities, and today, we are seeing evidence of that."
The new bridge is going up just south of the current bridge. Construction is expected to take a year and a half.