GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - When rain falls in North Gulfport, it eventually flows into Turkey Creek. Much of the land surrounding the creek is wetlands and any new development in the area worries residents.
A road project proposed by Republican Mayor Billy Hewes has raised the ire of his Democratic opponent, Howard Page.
“Yesterday we saw a huge amount of flooding near the Turkey Creek,” Page said in a press conference on Friday. “It came very close to a nearby church, it threatened some nearby homes. And the only reason why flooding didn’t happen is because we still have wetlands for the water to go into instead of going into people’s homes and churches.”
Page said the Mayor’s BUILD Grant project doesn’t take into consideration the impact it will have on wetlands and the residents of North Gulfport. The project is designed to alleviate traffic along Creosote Road and Highway 49, by extending Creosote and Airport Boulevard. It will also help traffic flow on an overpass to Landon Road.
“So we’ve been studying this and looking for a way to do it and at the same time taking into account all communities,” Hewes said Friday in response to Page. “Particularly the proximity Forest Heights and that community to make sure that as it is designed that there will not be any exacerbation of flooding concerns and that in fact, we can mitigate those through the design.”
Page thinks there are other ways to improve traffic flow with less impact on wetlands.
“We have so many other better opportunities,” Page said. “Whether it’s widening Three Rivers Road going north-south, whether it’s widening Landon Road or Dedeaux Road as has long been promised going east-west. Those would accomplish what the mayor says is his goals, which is to improve public safety, to reduce traffic congestion, to help the local businesses.”
Hewes said the project is badly needed and has been approved by city, state and federal bodies.
“We’ve had engineers that have assured us that the flooding concerns can be and will be mitigated contrary to what others have said that it’s ‘guaranteed to cause damage, it’s guaranteed to cause more flooding,’” Hewes said. “That’s just not the case.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the project a $20.46 million grant. The road project is expected to have a total cost of $32.17 million. The project is still in a conceptual state and there will be more opportunities for public input.