Coast Guard Releases Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge Recommendation

The Coast Guard on Tuesday released its requirements for a new Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge. The bridge must be at least 85 feet high and 150 feet wide, but does not have to include a draw.

The recommendation is similar to one proposed earlier by the Mississippi Department of Transportation and opposed by Trinity Yachts, Northrop Grumman, and the Harrison County Development Commission.

Prior to the storm, a drawbridge gave Harrison County's shipbuilding companies unlimited access to the open water. After the hurricane, MDOT decided to raise the height of a replacement bridge so a draw would be unnecessary.

MDOT's Wayne Brown has said it would cost an additional $78 million necessary to add a drawbridge to the current bridge design. He says that's money the state just doesn't have.

Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran was another opponent of MDOT's bridge design. She called for a smaller, four lane bridge, instead of a six lane high rise.

Mayor Moran said Tuesday, "I'm disappointed with the decision. I think it's a mistake to threaten future, good paying jobs in the shipbuilding industry. MDOT should have at least considered a removable span."

Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway, who supports MDOT's plan, was happy to report the news to council members at City Hall.

"This is promising news for our recovery efforts, not only here in Biloxi but for the entire Gulf Coast," Holloway said.

"When you consider that about 30,000 vehicles a day were having to make a long, time-consuming detour, and when you consider the price of fuel, this was creating a million-dollar a week drag on our economy, and slowing our recovery."

Tuesday's decision by the Coast Guard brings MDOT one step closer to awarding a bid to rebuild the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge.

In January, 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 and should be completed by November 2007.