Awarding Of Bids To Rebuild Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge Pending

Countless tours of the hurricane devastated Gulf Coast have ended here, at the base of what was the Biloxi Ocean Springs Bridge.

"Seeing pictures is one thing but to be live looking at just the volume of it and the extent of it," says Don Raths of Chicago, Illinois. "It just seems more real."

As a structural engineer Raths has a unique perspective on the extent of damage done to this vital artery turned tourist attraction.

"It was enlightening to see what the surge did to the precast concrete structures," says Raths. "You can see it moved the bridge deck literally 15 feet to the north and picked it up then it collapsed off the piers on one end."

But very soon work will finally begin to remove the rubble and erect a new bridge.

"MDOT will select a contractor, design build team, June the 6th which is Tuesday," says Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway. "Once they award that contract, the contractor has 15 months to build that one span. It's be a twin span 95 feet high."

With the long debate over the design of the bridge over and construction set to begin soon after the Department of Transportation awards the bid, Holloway says the chosen contractor will have powerful incentives to finish by the target date of September 2007.

"If they get it done within schedule they get a $5 million bonus. If they're over that, they're fined $100,000 for every day they're late."

Like Mayor Holloway, Biloxi resident Gloria Griffith says seeing progress here will be a long awaited financial and spiritual lift.

"People that work Ocean Springs to Gulfport, do you know how much money they burn in gas, asks Griffith. "I mean, you know it shouldn't have taken this long."

For Don Raths, he's just glad he got the chance to see the evidence of Katrina's power for the first and perhaps last time.

"The surge, it's a powerful force," says Raths