GULFPORT, Mississippi — Work is set to begin June 6 on building a new wharf face for the west pier of the Port of Gulfport, a project that marks a key phase in restoring the port nearly destroyed almost a decade ago by hurricane Katrina.
The Mississippi State Port Authority awarded Hattiesburg-based L&A Contracting a $55.8 million contract Thursday to upgrade the west pier wharf to allow for the placement of rail mounted gantry cranes. The contract also calls for utility upgrades to support the electric cranes which replace the port’s two diesel operated cranes.
Under the 910-day contract, the contract will be required to drive about 690 pilings and provide a new wharf face for the entire west pier.
The 39-acre wharf recently underwent a $105 million project to raise the elevation of to a range of 12 feet to 14 feet, an height decided on after state and port officials wrangled over earlier plans to raise the pier to about 25 feet. Gov. Phil Bryant and other state leaders insisted the project be scaled back as a way to return the port back to full operation as soon as possible.
Warehouses, a road and a rail line are to go onto the newly elevated wharf.
L & A Contracting submitted the low bidder from among some half dozen firms submitting competitive bids for the wharf work. The firm plans to use other local contractors in carrying out the project.
Jim Simpson, president of the port authority board of commissioners, called the award “a major step forward in the realization of a restored port.”
This construction contract is one of several representing a total estimated value of $130-180 million scheduled for award this year as part of the Port’s $570 million restoration program.
“We’re getting into the actual phase of construction as opposed to the earth work,” said Denton Gibbes, spokesman for the port authority board.
“Now we are building the foundation upon which the port will be built,” he added.
Gibbes said port operations will be adjusted for the work but not interrupted.