Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge On Schedule

A sea of construction cranes rises above the Mississippi Sound. Tons of concrete and steel form the solid foundation of a much anticipated, much discussed bridge.

"This is a one point six mile long bridge. It's going to be a six lane bridge, full shoulders on each side and a walking pedestrian pathway on the southside," said project engineer, Kelly Castleberry.

The rhythmic pounding of the pile driver is a constant sign of progress. Some 900 of the bridge's 16 hundred piles have already been placed.

For bridge workers, the immense building project consumes ten hour days, six days a week.

"There's approximately 25 contractors on site. And of the contractors, 15 of those are Mississippi based. So, there is a lot of Mississippi labor on site," said Castleberry.

More than 40 percent of the storm damaged structure has been demolished. The replacement span is located slightly to the south of the old bridge.

The newer model is built to better withstand the forces of hurricanes. Horizontal beams are much longer and the bridge itself is much higher.

"On average, it's 26 feet above the mean high tide. So, hopefully it will be above any storm surge or wave action we might encounter from another hurricane," said the engineer.

The construction of this bridge will require 86 thousand cubic yards of concrete. That's enough to pour a five foot wide, four inch deep sidewalk from Biloxi to Greenville, Mississippi.

Along with significant strength from concrete and steel, the new bridge will also have an artistic touch. Designs will highlight both the retaining walls and the guard rails.

"I see a beautiful bridge. I see it progressing very well. And I see a bridge that's going to bring vitality back to Biloxi and Ocean Springs," said Southern District Highway Commissioner, Wayne Brown.

Another creative touch will be found on the pedestrian lane of the new bridge. Gear plates from the old draw bridge will be transformed into art, and used as mile markers.

Again, two lanes of traffic should be open by mid-November, with the entire project finished by next spring.

The contractor has a significant financial incentive for finishing the project on schedule. A $5 million incentive bonus will be paid if two lanes of traffic are up and running November 13th.

If the deadline is missed, the contractor will have to pay $100,000 a day in penalties.