The New Bay St. Louis Bridge is Reconnecting the Coast. If all goes as planned, the new Bay bridge that connects the Bay St. Louis/Waveland area to the rest of the Coast will re-open for traffic on Thursday, May 17 th around 4:00 pm.
Dignitaries from Jackson and the Coastal counties will gather at the middle of the 2-mile bridge for a celebratory ribbon tying ceremony to officially open the bridge connecting Harrison and Hancock Counties.
Private business owners and state agencies have been working together to use this day as the opportunity to let the nation know that "The Bay Bridge is Back," reconnecting the Mississippi Coast.
"Travelers have been conditioned after almost two-years of detouring the Coast to take alternate routes," said Kimberly Nastasi, CEO of the Mississippi Coast Chamber of Commerce. "It's truly going to be an exciting day."
In celebration of this first step in reconnecting the Mississippi Coast, area businesses have organized "Bridge Fest," an open air festival free to the public on the Bay St. Louis waterfront complete with live music, fun and food vendors, and more.
The festival will follow the state's official opening ceremony which begins at 2 pm on Thursday.
"Bridge Fest" will begin after the completion of a ceremonial procession by antique cars cross the new bridge from Henderson Point to Bay St. Louis launching the festival. The Classic Car Parade is estimated to begin around 3:30 pm.
The Festival will be from 4pm - 8pm on the grounds of the Bay-Waveland Yacht Club on North Beach Blvd near Second Street.
The last annual average daily traffic report from 2005 shows 20,000 vehicles crossed the bridge, according to the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
"We have a great response from sponsorships and reservations for booth space," said Tish Williams, executive director of the Hancock Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to paid sponsorships, in kind contributions are also helping to make "Bridge Fest" possible.
Area business councils are also involved in the effort to include: OId Town Merchants, Hancock Chamber Ambassadors, the Village Merchants Association, Waveland Community Coalition and the Diamondhead Business & Professional Association.
There is still limited time for Mississippi Coast businesses to participate in a variety of ways including, event sponsorships, on-site activities, and participating cooperative advertising and publicity efforts by acting as a point of display and distribution for information about the bridge re-opening.
"More than a half-million motorists per month have detoured this route for nearly two-years. This requires a sustaining campaign to educate the public," said Williams.
Members of the press are encouraged to register with the Hancock Chamber to receive the latest information regarding the opening ceremony.
To see the progress of the reconstruction of the Bay St. Louis Bridge, Mississippi Department of Transportation has set up a LIVE web cam. To meet this month's deadline more than 300 workers are working on the $270 million project to open two lanes of traffic by mid-May.