Having the Biloxi Ocean Springs Bridge out of service for 26 months has been a nightmare for drivers. A simple three mile drive from downtown Ocean Springs to Biloxi's Casino Row became a 12 mile commute through heavier than normal traffic.
The detour took time. It ate up gas. Consequently, it cost drivers such as Vickie Lightner a lot more money.
"The traffic in the afternoon is just horrendous," she said while on a break from her security job at the Isle of Capri.
Yet the only way Lightner could get home from work was to sit in that traffic.
"It's become a big inconvenience," she said.
How big? Lightner bought a new car last September. Because the bridge between her Ocean Springs home and her Biloxi workplace was out, she put 16,000 miles on that vehicle. So while driving, or while on her breaks, she often daydreamed about the day a new Biloxi Ocean Springs Bridge would reopen. That dream comes true on Thursday.
"This is my last week of going around from Ocean Springs, I-110, I-10," she beamed. "So, I'm excited."
The east side of the bridge is more than just a place people call home.
"Absolutely," Gulf Coast Produce General Manager Charlie Short said. "It's a great percentage of our business."
Short's distributorship uses three trucks a day to deliver fresh produce to Ocean Springs and Gautier businesses. While the bridge was out, drivers had to make time consuming, and sometimes costly delivery schedule changes. Instead of starting in Biloxi, and working their way east, produce trucks took the interstate to the west side of Jackson County and worked their way back toward Bohn Street. That became a real problem when customers would make last minute orders, or drivers forgot a produce item.
"Having to make the hot shot deliveries, or the second runs, it wasn't as easy. And we would not be able to respond as quickly," said Short.
But response times should pick up Thursday when delivery trucks once again have access to the Biloxi Ocean Springs Bridge.
"It's going to give us more opportunity to be more effective, and service our customers better," he said.