East Biloxi road contractor: 'Nobody here has seen a project like this'

East Biloxi road contractor: 'Nobody here has seen a project like this'

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Since the summer of 2014, residents of East Biloxi have dealt with the constant headache of road work in their neighborhoods. John Cowart, the General Supervisor for contractor Oscar Renda, points to areas where the most progress is being made.

"The east end of the project is closing up," Cowart said. "From Lee St. back to Oak St. we're expecting every street to have paving on by June 1 of this year."

But for many residents and members of the city council, they're just not seeing enough progress and are ready for it to end.

"People don't want to live through this for another year or another year and a half," said Biloxi City Councilman George Lawrence.

As work continues, Cowart admits his crews have had a learning curve when it comes to this $355 million project.

"Nobody here has seen a project like this," Cowart said. "It's the largest infrastructure project ever awarded in the state of Mississippi. There's been a lot of unforseens, I think, for the city and for us as the contractor. But as we've moved along over the last two and a half years, we have both learned a lot and we're now able to address these issues in a timely manner."

During Tuesday's Biloxi City Council meeting, George Lawrence asked Cowart why he hasn't been seeing more workers in the streets.

"With the rate you're going, you cannot finish this job in 2018," Lawrence said. "There's either not enough people working, or you're just not building or you're just not getting the job done on time."

Cowart responded by saying, "When you're working on narrow streets, it's difficult to put four or five crews out when you're trying to keep emergency vehicles and residents access to their homes."

Although summer of 2018 remains the target finish date for the overall project, Cowart doesn't sound optimistic his crews will be wrapped up by then.

"We do expect that date to be pushed back," Cowart said. "I don't know the exact, but we do expect that date to be pushed back."

Cowart said he expects paving to start on Division St. in March once the draining and curbing work is completed.

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