Pascagoula High Rise: A Gridlock Success Story

"Some days when you head to work, the bridge would be stuck in the upright position," George Stewart says.

When that happened, thousands of anxious drivers on Highway 90 in Pascagoula would sit and wait sometimes for an hour or more. Accidents were common.

"When the traffic got backed up, or the bridge got froze up, you were going to have accidents," Brian Malone says.

"There was one trying to beat the light for the bridge and he swerved and another car hit him and they ran into the side rail," Christopher Tanner says.

"I've seen a bunch of fender benders where people hit the brakes on that grading and the moisture from the morning dew. They start twirling," Stewart says.

Today, for the most part, it's smooth sailing over the high rise. In fact, since the first car rolled over the high rise 18 months ago, Pascagoula police say the number of accidents has decreased drastically.

"There were 51 accidents on the old draw bridge in the last year. So far there have only been 14 accidents on the new high rise," Pascagoula Police Department Traffic Division Supervisor Kenny Johnson says.

Drivers say they've noticed a difference too.

"It's still bad, but it's not as bad as it was," Stewart says.

Drivers complain there seem to be more cars on the road. Northrop Grumman's shift to a four day work week with longer hours has put shipyard workers on the road at the same time as the 9-to-5 workers.

But most will agree, the new bridge with eight lanes instead of four and no draw to open and get stuck, makes driving Highway 90 in Pascagoula much easier.

"You don't have a constant stop at the top of the bridge. It's all flowing traffic," Tanner says.

"It's crowded, but at least you've got four lanes on each side and you don't have to worry about the bridge getting stuck no more," Malone says.

Mississippi Department of Transportation officials hope to relieve the crowding soon. It's all part of the second phase of the high rise project. Included in that is the plan to widen Highway 90 to four lanes on both sides down to Market Street. Construction won't begin until 2006.