BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Spring break weekend is here and traffic concerns are high in cities across the Gulf Coast.
Authorities are working to keep traffic moving and keep people safe throughout the three-day event, which kicks off Friday. A heavy volume of people are expected to arrive through Sunday.
Biloxi crews were out Thursday placing traffic cones on Hwy. 90 ahead of the weekend. Those cones will block off the left lane of the highway to all traffic except emergency vehicles. Biloxi Police say they expect to put that plan into place no later than noon on Friday.
Biloxi's traffic plan has several phases or stages that will be implemented as needed. The basic tenet of the plan is that traffic on Highway 90 will be limited to one lane eastbound and one-lane westbound from I-110 to Cowan Road in Gulfport. The outer, right-hand lanes will be for motorists and the interior, left lanes will be reserved for emergency vehicles. Motorists who venture into the left lane will likely be ticketed or have their vehicle towed.
The plan also involves restricting the use of left lanes, closing intersections and limiting access to Highway 90 from connecting streets.
During peak times of traffic, it may be necessary for authorities to vent traffic, funneling it to I-110 to the east and to Cowan Road to the west. Officers will then direct the stream of motorists to I-10; no turns or stopping will be allowed during venting.
Venting, when it occurs, usually continues for 30 to 45 minutes or until traffic is flowing again. The purpose is to avoid gridlock and keep traffic moving at a safe-yet-steady pace.
One area of major concern for many residents who live in "Spring Break Central" is being able to get in and out of their homes. Officials say for those who live near the Mississippi Coast Coliseum – primarily in areas like Briarfield and Pine Grove – passes have been issued that will allow them to travel through the grounds of the Coliseum. It's a system police say has worked well in years past. However, they warn that these passes will not help anyone get around the city.
"Essentially, you have to listen to police officers when you come up to them," said city spokesman Vincent Creel. "They're in a full vent, they have to keep traffic moving. They are not going to have time to ask you where do you live, where do you need to go. So don't think that because you heard about a pass or you got a pass from somebody that that is going to be something to help get you around the city."
Maj. Chris DeBack with Biloxi Police Department advises everyone to be patient and remain calm when trying to get through traffic.
"If you come up to an officer and we are venting, of course, we're going to try and do what we can for those who live in the area, but sometimes we have to keep traffic moving," he said.
For answers to Frequently Asked Questions about spring break, visit the city's website HERE.
For a live look at traffic from the top of the Biloxi Lighthouse, watch here: