By BECKY GILLETTE
Biloxi is going up. One of the busiest intersections on Highway 90, the intersection with Beau Rivage Resort & Casino and the MGM Park, is getting an elevated pedestrian crosswalk.
The Beau Rivage Resort & Casino is the largest hotel in the state with 1,740 rooms. It is across the street from the MGM Park, home of the minor league baseball Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, the Biloxi Shuckers of the Southern League, with 5,000 fixed seats and room for an additional 800 to 1,000 fans in berm seating.
Mississippi Department of Transportation Southern District Commissioner Tom King said the pedestrian crosswalk near Caillavet Street was designed by Neel-Schaffer.
King said the $3.6 million project was awarded to Malouf Construction, LLC of Greenwood, and is estimated to be complete in early 2019.
The intersection sees high volumes of both foot and vehicle traffic. This area has also seen even more congestion from recent economic development and tourism.
Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said that for years there has been talk of finding a way to attract visitors from the thousands of hotels rooms south of Highway 90 to the downtown area.
“But first, we had to give them more to see and do, and I think we’re doing that with our restoration efforts,” Gilich said. “Then, we had to give them an easier way to explore north Highway 90, and we are doing that now with two pedestrian crosswalks. Construction has begun on the first one at MGM Park and Highway 90. The second, currently under design, will be built north of the Small Craft Harbor and Highway 90 and should begin by the end of the year.”
Randy Boudreaux, the Neel-Schaffer engineer of record on the first project, said the pedestrian bridge will be 160 feet long and have an 8-foot clear width.
“The bridge was designed using AASHTO LRFD specifications,” Boudreaux said. “There will be an elevator-stair tower at each end of the bridge that will comply with Americans with Disability Act requirements. The bridge was designed for a standard pedestrian loading of 75 pounds per square foot. The bridge will be a four-sided steel truss with safety fencing on the sides and top to protect the public. The top landing of the bridge will be located at the same level as the third floor of the Beau Rivage parking garage and the second floor of the MGM Park parking garage.”
Beau Rivage Facilities Director Al Green said the pedestrian crosswalk will be a welcome addition to downtown Biloxi.
“It will offer convenience and safety for out-of-town visitors and locals who cross between the south side to the north side of Highway 90,” Green said. “With more than 16,000 vehicles passing per day, this crosswalk will provide a safe and effective manner for pedestrians to cross, particularly during high traffic volume times and peak events on either side of the highway.”
Green said the crosswalk will go over five west bound and five east bound lanes including turn lanes just west of Caillavet Street. Construction of the crosswalk includes a clear span pre-engineered design with landings near the MGM Park parking garage on the north side and near the Beau Rivage parking garage on the south side.
Green said the covered walkway will be architecturally compatible with surrounding landmarks and nearby high rise iconic structures. Both landings will include two stories with elevators at each location and air-conditioned lobbies on each floor. Each landing includes bypass stairwells for emergency exits and to meet fire safety regulations.
Biloxi Chief Administrative Officer Mike Leonard said design continues to be tweaked on the pedestrian overpass that will be just east of Main Street.
“We are still working right-of-way issues, so the exact location has not been pinpointed yet,” Leonard said. “We do know that it will be just east of Main Street and cross into the park at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor.”
Leonard said they expect to see a contract awarded in the summer and
construction completed possibly as early as the end of the year.”
Biloxi’s has adopted an 85-page Downtown Restoration Plan that lays out a year-by-year timetable for progress, with identified funding sources for much of the work and a host of incentives for small businesses. Much of the public focus to this point has been the proposed re-opening of Howard Avenue to two-way traffic with on-street parking.
The overriding goal of the plan is to move away from the urban renewal project of decades ago, when the city attempted to diminish the impact of Edgewater Mall by converting streets to pedestrian traffic only.
Planner Lindsay Ward of the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District said a major portion of the plan is dedicated to incentives for development.
“We actually have quite a few programs for communities and small businesses,” Ward said. “There’s a community development loan fund from $5,000 to $175,000 and a revolving loan program that offers from $2,000 to $500,000, depending on approval our loan committee and board. With the plan itself and the funding opportunities, this is not an 85-page document that sits on a shelf. It’s a step-by-step holistic approach that shows how the city can implement every single recommendation.”
The development district says restoring two-way traffic to Howard Avenue could be realized in four to six months once construction begins. The estimated cost is $1 to $1.5 million.
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