Biloxi Bay Bridge Opening Ahead Of Schedule

BILOXI (WLOX) -- Drivers who use the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge can start counting down the days. Construction crews are busy putting finishing touches on that important project.

The deadline to complete the bridge is April 16th. But the contractor plans on beating that deadline and opening the span ahead of schedule.

Right now, plans are to open the three westbound lanes on Monday, March 31st and the three eastbound lanes on Monday, April 7th.

High atop the new bridge striping crews roll along the concrete deck laying down a solid white line.

"We're doing the finishing touches on the bridge," says project engineer Kelly Castleberry.

While one team lays down new lines, another uses a power washer to wipe away the temporary traffic marks.

On the Biloxi side, workers in the eastbound lanes put down the final blacktop. The impressive span of concrete and steel is wider, safer and taller than the old bridge.

"The motorists don't have to contend with an opening of the draw span in the middle like they did with the old one and the mechanical problems. This bridge is almost maintenance free," said Castleberry.

Along with the last minute striping and sweeping, the bridge builders have also been doing some testing. For the past two weeks, the decorative lights that line both sides of the bridge have gone through a "burn test."

"What we do is we test the lighting. Make sure everything is in compliance. Make sure it's going to perform the way that was specified in the plans," says the engineer.

"Everyone is really excited. Of course, we've been ready since day one for it to be open," said Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran.

She feels somewhat vindicated. The mayor was criticized early on for lobbying M-DOT to include decorative elements.

"I'm glad I argued for decorative railing, decorative lighting, deckless lighting and of course the pedestrian and bike path. I think we'll see a lot of people using that. And people are already excited about how beautiful the bridge looks," says Mayor Moran.

Those who are happy with how the finished project looks, are perhaps more pleased the contractor will deliver the new span earlier than expected.

"Ahead of schedule," says a smiling Castleberry, "That's what we're shooting for and that's what we're going to try and deliver on."

The engineer says the design-build method worked well on this project. That essentially means the project is being designed at the same time it's being built. It's used most often when projects need to be fast tracked.

"Design build worked on this project," said Castleberry, "One, everyone needed this bridge, the communities needed this bridge and they needed it very fast, as opposed to the traditional methods that we use."