A welder's spark initially brightened the dreary morning sky. Before long, a haze blanketing the back bay lifted. And so did an 85 foot cement beam. Its appearance over a suddenly sun drenched waterfront signified a key milestone in south Mississippi's post Katrina recovery.
Kelly Castleberry is one of MDOTs project engineers.
"Just having this go up let's everyone else see that we are making progress," he said.
Castleberry is overseeing the $338 million rebirth of the Biloxi Ocean Springs bridge.
"We've got a lot of progress that we've made. We still have a lot that has to go on," he said.
The battered and beaten bridge was one of the unforgetable images of Katrina. Sections of the cement roadway snapped apart while the monstrous storm came ashore. Remnants of the old bridge are being used in the water to create a breakwall south of Deer Island. At the same time, a new path to connect Biloxi and Ocean Springs is coming out of the water.
"I see the foundation, the pilings and the footings. I see that and know that's progress," the project engineer said. "But a lot of people can't see that."
That's why MDOT felt setting the initial span was so important.
It will take more than 700 of the cement beams to build just the westbound side of the Biloxi Ocean Springs bridge. Having the first span in place is a sign, according to MDOT, that the Highway 90 bridge is on the road to recovery.
"I think we'll make the November 13, 2007 deadline for two lane traffic," Castleberry said. "Certainly we can achieve it if we work hard enough."
GC Constructors is building the Biloxi Ocean Springs bridge. The contracting team is a joint venture of firms based out of Kansas City, MO, Peachtree City, GA, and Evansville, IN.