Bridge Battle May Force Wall Street To Hit The Brakes

There's one overriding question that east Biloxi developers like Keith Crosby would like to have answered.

"When's that bridge going to be finished?" the Palace Casino general manager asked.

That bridge is the damaged Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge. Katrina tore apart the cement structure. Five months later, remnants of it still sit in the bay, because nobody can decide whether a replacement bridge should include a draw.

That hasn't stopped companies like the Palace from making some immediate improvements to their properties. As for its more long term master plan, "It's difficult as hell right now to figure out," Crosby said.

"You can sit down and describe what you want to do, but it always ends up in, what about the bridge. When is the bridge going to be done? Is that where it's going? Those kinds of questions."

Casinos aren't the only companies asking those questions. Wall Street is also very interested in what happens to this bridge. The longer the road remains a mess, the harder it becomes for Wall Street to finance future projects here in east Biloxi, because according to Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway, Wall Street bondholders hate indecision.

Holloway brought up his Wall Street concerns on Saturday's WLOX News This Week program.

"That's going to be having a tremendous effect on casinos getting financing," he said, referring to the bridge construction delay, and the questions about whether it needs a draw.

Three different casino insiders said the mayor was right. The bridge controversy could hold up a lot more than traffic. And they all stressed what Keith Crosby's been thinking -- that bridge better be built soon. Otherwise, his casino may not throw as much money into its next expansion.

"To spend that kind of money, you've got to be pretty doggone careful," said Crosby. "It's a big economic issue."

And it's snarled in a messy traffic situation that won't be cleared up until somebody decides how to rebuild the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge.

The drawbridge became an issue when Northrop Grumman and Trinity Yachts both said they needed a draw to get ships they expect to build in the future out of Gulfport.