Residents gather for ‘Interconnecting Gulfport’ public hearing

Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 10:11 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Highway 49 is known for being busy with cars bumper-to-bumper.

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes said the city received a $20 million grant for the “Interconnecting Gulfport” project.

“Everything jams up on the weekends and especially the holidays. Backs up onto 49 and sometimes Interstate 10. It’s a safety component on a lot of levels from biking, pedestrian, automobile, but the traffic relief is key,” said Hewes.

Engineers said they’ve listened to concerns from residents like adding sidewalks to the project and have the flow of water going into a retention pond to ease flooding concerns.

Steve Twedt, a Neel-Schaffer engineer, said he’s glad that folks filled the room to review plans and voice their worries.

“I think public involvement is very important in shaping your project in a way that’s consistent with what everyone is expecting in the community. Most of the feedback we received has been favorable,” said Twedt.

However, Gulfport resident Nancy Evans said more attention should be focused on the current flooding issue before it potentially becomes worse.

“On the north side of my house, it looks like a lake when it rains. The water doesn’t have anywhere to go. My son can’t cut my yard,” said Evans.

Louis Miller, state director of the Mississippi Sierra Club, said the state’s Department of Transportation came up with seven alternatives for the plan.

He said the city has picked the most expensive and the least effective one.

“The deck is rigged on this. It’s jeopardizing the health and wellbeing of this community and not getting anything in return except a bunch of real estate developers that are going to get rich. This is going to be a way to develop about 1500 acres of wetlands. That water is going to go somewhere, and this retention pond is inadequate,” said Miller.

On the other hand, the city said it’s open minded to listening to residents and has the community’s best interest.

“We don’t want to make flooding worse. If anything, we want to make things better. We know we’re going to improve the traffic congestion, but we don’t want to do any harm in the process,” said Hewes.

The city said the next steps are getting an environmental assessment and a permit to move forward.

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