Wayne Brown stood in front of elected leaders from Harrison and Jackson Counties and made promise. "Your department of transporation has no plans to widen U.S. 90," he said.
However, MDOT will replace the highway's hurricane damaged bridges. And one of those bridges will be widened, the one that connects Ocean Springs and Biloxi.
Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran described that bridge as "the gateway to our community." And she emphasized how important it is to replace the hurricane damaged bridge crumbled in the water with a signature bridge. But there's a growing belief on the Ocean Springs side of the damaged Highway 90 bridge that MDOT's new bridge designs won't blend into the quaint Jackson County community. "At the charette, nationally renowned transportation engineers repeatedly insisted we did not need a six lane bridge," said Moran.
However, right after the hurricane, MDOT got the mayors of Ocean Springs and Biloxi to agree to the six lane bridge concept, as long as it was aesthetically pleasing. Since then, many in Ocean Springs have apparently had a change of heart.
Cynthia Ramseur attended a meeting in Biloxi where the bridge was discussed. "It makes no sense to put a permanent structure in that's 128 feet wide," the Ocean Springs woman said. Yet as transportation commissioner
Wayne Brown explained at the meeting, a new bridge had to be that wide to support traffic growth projections, plus a bike path, and breakdown lanes. He said building anything smaller than six lanes wouldn't be prudent. "The four lane bridge would go to an unacceptable level of service at Ocean Springs/Biloxi in five and a half years," Brown told elected leaders from Harrison and Jackson Counties.
Mayor Moran doesn't think Brown is right. "So again I'm asking in a public setting, I implore you to please consider the four lane option," she said.
After initially not responding, Brown emphatically defended the six lane proposal. "I'm going to rely on the experts. And the experts have spoken, our experts, and they have spoken. And we are not stopping that process," he said. Brown is hopeful that contracts to build a new bridge between Biloxi and Ocean Springs will be signed in January.
Because Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Biloxi Ocean Springs bridge, the federal government agreed to replace it. It's also paying for a new bridge between Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis. Both bridges will be built at the same time.