Popps Ferry neighbors oppose a "superhighway" through north Biloxi

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Plans to redo the Popps Ferry Bridge have reached a critical stage. Biloxi must determine if recommendations in a bridge study should be adopted.

Wednesday night, people who live near Popps Ferry Road heard details about the study. Three of those neighbors said a bigger bridge, and a wider road were necessary, but not at the expense of their properties.

Yard signs dot Popps Ferry Road. They urge Biloxi to "just say no" to turning the north south connector into a superhighway. Gary Robertson has lived in his home since 1983. He put two protest signs in his yard. Why? Because if Biloxi adopts the recommendations in a Popps Ferry Road study, the landscaped spot where Robertson was standing could become the western edge of a wider roadway. "If they widen it, then there's going to be a lot more traffic," he said.

The Popps Ferry expansion study recommends Biloxi build a new bridge just east of the current bridge, with a 65 foot height elevation. That would keep most traffic moving while boats sail by. In a worst case scenario, engineers have determined nearly six dozen homes on either side of the bridge would have to be demolished.

Jim York lives on the north side of the bridge. "Our property values will go down. Sixty nine affordable homes will be destroyed," he told the Biloxi City Council on Tuesday. "Traffic flow on my street, Rustwood, will increase from what it is now, which is very heavy, because of the limited access." The study York read said that currently, Popps Ferry Road has 14 locations where cars can turn onto side streets. The engineer's recommendation is to limit those turns to just three locations, forcing cars to use the Sunkist subdivision as access road to Popps Ferry. "I urge you to vote no on this resolution," said York.

A woman who's lived on Popps Ferry for 40 years was about to cross the street, when she stopped and said, "I'm glad they're taking my house, because I certainly wouldn't want to live on this street once they widen it more."

Gary Robertson understands the need for the widening. He wonders why part of his property might be purchased, when there's plenty of land on the east side of Popps Ferry Road. "I just don't understand that," he said. According to what Mr. Robertson read in the environmental impact statement, the wrecking ball wouldn't touch his house. But a wider road would change the character of his corner lot. And it would also change the character of the Popps Ferry Road community.

The woman crossing the street wasn't too worried about that. "I don't think it's going to be that fast. I'll probably be dead by the time they do it," she laughed.

Biloxi councilmen will consider adopting the Popps Ferry Road expansion study at their next meeting. Councilman Mike Fitzpatrick said that in order to obtain $77 million in federal money to pay for the Popps Ferry improvements, engineers must design the new road to meet specific federal standards. He believes the size of the road could be modified, and some homes saved, once the city qualifies for the money.