Suddenly nobody is sure when rebuilding work on the Biloxi Ocean Springs bridge actually move forward. For weeks, MDOT has been saying that on January 24th, it would hire a contractor to build a six lane bridge. But on Tuesday, the project was put on hold.
The issue that caused the bridge's major rebuilding roadblock has to do with economic development. The Harrison County Development Commission, Northrop Grumman, and Trinity Yachts have contacted MDOT and said the new bridge needed a draw so it wouldn't stymie future ship projects. Now, the Coast Guard wants to hear from MDOT about the drawbridge idea before it approves the new bridge's actual height.
So the bridge is on hold. And drivers must take the long way around Katrina's mess.
Ralph Trisotto had two words to describe MDOT's decision to postpone Biloxi Ocean Springs bridge construction.
"Very stupid," he said. "They're holding up progress."
Trisotto works at the Palace Casino in Biloxi. Before the hurricane he lived in Ocean Springs. He moved to Gulfport right after the storm.
"One of the main reasons was because of the traffic," he said.
Trisotto saw the broken bridge spans left behind by Katrina, and didn't feel like waiting for them to be cleared and rebuilt. What nobody knew at the time Trisotto moved was that a debate over adding a drawbridge to new bridge designs would delay construction indefinitely.
And that doesn't sit well with Trisotto's colleague Randy Wilson.
"It kind of makes you mad because our politicians aren't doing their job," said Wilson.
Like Trisotto, Wilson works in the Palace's engineering department. Unlike his colleague, the Ocean Springs native kept his home across the bay, even though the hurricane wiped out the bridge.
"My wife also works over in Biloxi," said Wilson. "And for us to have to go around, take the extra time and everything, like I said it's frustrating, because they can't make a decision."
According to MDOT's Wayne Brown, a decision has been made. He said pieces of the Biloxi Ocean Springs Bridge will simply sit in the back bay until the Mississippi Development Authority or the governor comes up with the $78 million necessary to add the drawbridge requested by Harrison County shipbuilders.
Back at the casino, Ralph Trisotto had a few more words to describe the mess.
"This coast could boom again, and will boom. But fighting over something like this is just killing us," said Trisotto.
The bridge that will be built is between Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis.
On Tuesday, MDOT hired Granite Archer Western to clean up hurricane debris and build a new four lane roadway over the Bay of St. Louis.
That bridge carries a price tag of more than $274 million. According to MDOT's Wayne Brown, the federal government has already sent his agency the money to pay for construction.
The contract requires the Bay bridge to be completed by November 2007.