Two More Agencies Question Bridge Design

For Larry Barnett, "The drawbridge is the issue."

Barnett is the new executive director of the Harrison County Development Commission. His agency believes any replacement bridge built between Biloxi and Ocean Springs must include a draw similar to what was there before the hurricane.

"What we wanted to see was that we have open access to the water," he said.

Without that access, Barnett worries that a tenant like Trinity Yachts may be handcuffed in its effort to build and ship large yachts out of the industrial seaway. In a letter Barnett sent to MDOT, he pointed out that every other bridge between the seaway and the gulf has a drawbridge.

"It is our recommendation that MDOT consider a draw or removable span so as not to limit future business needs by height," he wrote.

The development commission isn't the only agency suddenly speaking out about the bridge. Mississippi Development Authority Director Leland Speed also has reservations about how it's rebuilt. His concern is with its width, not its height.

Speed is just like Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran. He opposes a six lane bridge, because it doesn't conform with ideas discussed at recent charettes.

"We have a beautiful plan," Speed told a reporter. "And quite frankly, this impairs that plan dramatically."

Despite Speed's quote, MDOT's Wayne Brown maintained the bridge would be six lanes.

In a phone conversation with WLOX News, he did admit there was a possibility the Highway 90 bridge could include a draw, but only if somebody was willing to come up with $50 million dollars -- the estimated cost for a drawbridge addition.

At this point, MDOT is expecting to choose a bridge contractor and sign the necessary paperwork on January 24th. The winning company will build both the Biloxi Ocean Springs bridge and the damaged bridge between Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis.