There is good news for the thousands of South Mississippians who can't wait for the new Bay St. Louis bridge to reopen. Leaders with general contractor, Granite Archer Western announced Tuesday that crews are halfway to meeting their May 16th deadline. That's the date set to get two lanes back open to traffic.
The contractor showed off the progress made on the $268 million project, by taking local officials and media members on a special tour.
"I'm happy with it," said Harrison County supervisor Marlin Ladner.
Ladner's happiness came from seeing the ruins of a destroyed bridge gone, and the new Bay St. Louis bridge taking shape.
"It's a tremendous undertaking and I think this bridge will be a vital link to our recovery on the coast."
MDOT officials say they are also pleased with the progress the contractor has made so far.
"They've got most of the piling work in. We're about 70 percent done with the pilings. We're already setting girders and we're already placing bridge deck," MDOT district engineer David Seyfarth said.
What's going up will be built better than its predecessor. A range of 30 to 85 feet above water means no draw bridge to slow down traffic and less chance to have to rebuild.
"Another major advantage to raising the bridge elevation is if we have a storm surge comparable to what we had in Katrina, chances are we'll suffer little damage and possibly with some minor repairs have the bridge open," said Seyfarth. "It may not be closed at all."
Ladner said, "I think it would be a tremendous improvement. I think the bridge design would protect it from future hurricanes."
Five months from having to get two-way traffic flowing across this bridge, MDOT officials say they're feeling good.
Seyfarth said, "Granite Archer Western, they've got a lot of experience doing these size projects and they've got a team of professionals that travel around the country doing these type projects, so I feel very confident they're going to meet their milestone."
MDOT officials hope to have all four lanes of traffic open by November 30th.
Quick facts about the bridge:
- It's being built 150 feet north of its prior location, but with same tie-ins at Bay St. Louis and Henderson Point. This will get rid of the curve that was in the bridge.
- 240 hourly employees
- Will have bike path on south side
- 100 feet wide