New Transportation Plans Unveiled For Coast

Gulf Regional Planning analysts say a new north south road for Biloxi won't be built. And relocating the railroad tracks becomes less and less likely everyday. The planning agency made those realizations while it studied where now roads across south Mississippi should be built.

GRPC commissioners did that study to come up with what they call a Gulf Coast Area Transportation Plan. After a three year study, agency analysts determined the best places for new roads to be built between now and the year 2030.

GRPC thinks one of those roads must run alongside the CSX tracks. Moving the railroad tracks is still on some radar screens. However, David Taylor says the idea is moving a lot slower than anybody would like.

"We can't wait for it any longer," the head of the Gulf Regional Planning Commission said. "We've got to go ahead and plan as though it's going to be there."

So Taylor had his commission staff devise a conceptual map filled with road improvements and new road projects. On it is GRPC's number one transportation priority between now and 2030 -- a new east west road across the coast that runs parallel to the existing tracks.

"And if it moves, that just creates more opportunities as far as building a better corridor through there," Taylor said.

The agency's second priority reduces traffic on Highway 49.

"For instance," senior transportation planner Kenneth Yarrow said, "in Gulfport we have a project that proposes a new interchange just east of Highway 49."

That interchange would connect the interstate to Gulfport Biloxi International Airport, Washington Avenue, Hewes Avenue, and eventually Highway 90.

"It will provide excellent access to the airport from the interstate," Yarrow thought. "From our travel demand models, this project takes a lot of traffic off of Highway 49. It helps out tremendously."

Another plan takes airport cargo down and rebuilt John Hill Boulevard, and eventually to the proposed north south connector that ties into Canal Road.

A combination of coastal mayors, engineers and planners all had input into what south Mississippi's transportation map could look like down the road.

"This isn't just something we came up with in this office," Yarrow commented.

The map they created proposes a third Ocean Springs exit off of I-10. It would be between Highway 609 and Highway 57, and it would connect Fort Bayou Road to the city. There's also a new link in Biloxi that potentially ties the Woolmarket exit along the interstate to Popp's Ferry Road.

"What we want to do is we want alternatives," Yarrow said. "We have a pretty big north south problem in this area, as well as an east west problem. But what this does is it provides alternatives."

Gulf Regional Planning showed off its maps Tuesday night at a meeting in Biloxi. Wednesday night, the transportation proposals will be in Gautier at MGCCC's college student center. Thursday, they go to Bay St. Louis city hall. Each meeting is from 5:00-7:00.