Biloxi's $355 million road project to be done by 2014

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi councilmen got a status report Tuesday on the city's massive road and drainage system makeover. Biloxi will have 100 miles of streets repaved. It will also have a half million feet of new sewer lines put into the ground. And because this work is related to the city's hurricane recovery efforts, FEMA will pick up the tab.

Councilman George Lawrence is ready for the infrastructure repairs to begin.

"We have to start somewhere, we all understand that," he said.

The question is where should Biloxi's $355 million infrastructure project begin.

The work will look very similar to what's already taking place on Howard Avenue. Roads will be repaved, curbs improved, sidewalks added and storm drains repaired.

The city hired HNTB to be its program manager. Its engineers believe north Biloxi is the smartest places to launch this project -- not hurricane battered east Biloxi. Bill Stallworth said delaying east Biloxi work was a big mistake.

"I'll go on record as saying I'm extremely concerned about the timing and selection of these areas," Stallworth said.

Scott Forbes represented HNTB at a Tuesday morning workshop with the city council. He said north Biloxi would be addressed first because "those are the first ones that don't have these obstacles to overcome."

The obstacle in east Biloxi has to do with right of ways the city may have to acquire to keep utilities away from Highway 90.

Biloxi Chief Administrative Officer David Staehling said, "We're having some problems with the right of way issue on Highway 90. There's not enough right of way within the easements of MDOT. And there's no question we're going to have to acquire some right of way."

While that behind the scenes work is taking place, program managers will make sure other areas of the city get the post hurricane road and sewer improvements that they need. For instance, 70 damaged lift stations must all be fixed. Engineers have to replace temporary sewage pipes on wheels with permanent pumping stations. HNTB's plan is to consolidate some of the new pumps. That should make them more efficient for the city, and more affordable for FEMA.

"It's not like we're going to do one project at a time," Forbes said. "There will be a lot going on as we get further along."

Biloxi's $355 million infrastructure repair and replacement project should take four to five years to complete.