Construction crews on highway 90 in Ocean Springs are putting the final touches on the lane expansion project. That stretch of highway won't be a landscaped boulevard like in Biloxi and Gulfport. Instead there will be a concrete wall.
City leaders are not happy about the concrete medians. For the last few months the city of Ocean Springs has been asking the Highway Department to leave the medians hollowed out, to allow for grass, trees or shrubbery. The Mississippi Department of Transportation has not offered to change any plans.
What the city would like is something like Gulfport. Their six lane stretch of highway ninety has a small median with grass and small trees.
City leaders say that a huge slab of concrete will change the character of Ocean Springs.
Biloxi resident Vance Hewes drives along highway ninety in Ocean Springs three or four times a day. He says it will be great when all the orange and white barrels are finally gone.
"It's been under construction for, I don't know. I don't know how long it's been, it seems like forever. But they seem to be like they're finishing it up, things are moving along pretty smooth," Hewes said.
Alderman Matt McDonnell says aesthetics are an economic tool the city uses to attract businesses and customers. He's disappointed that M-DOT would not alter the plans to make some of the median areas available of landscaping.
"We're not asking them to plant anything, other than give us less concrete and a little more top soil, where we could come in and plant some grass in some of the medians, or leave them open where we could come in and develop them as planters areas," McDonnell said.
"We've asked the highway department to keep the concrete out, and plant grass or greenery, and I think this should have all been planned out in the beginning," Ocean Springs alderman-at-large Danny Jalanivich said.
Alderman Jalanivich share's his colleague's concern, but understands why nothing will probably be changed.
"At this late in the game, it's kind of hard to go back and change a contract," Jalanivich said.
Frank Mallette, the contractor on this project, says he's given the city twenty reason as to why a landscaped median is a bad idea. He says it would cost $300,000 for the additional work and the safety of motorists would be put in jeopardy.
"This project does not need trees in the middle of it, it has 40 thousand cars on it a day, they go which ever which way they can, and they don't need anything in the road making a blind spot for them to get through," Mallatte said.
" I think it there ought to be better planning in the future, to where we don't get caught in a situation like we're caught in now," Jalanicich said.
Frank Mallatte told WLOX News that all the orange barrels on Highway 90 in Ocean Springs could be gone in less than a month. He said crews are working around the clock, and the project is on schedule.
Transportation commissioner Wayne Brown was not available for comment Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
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