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Mississippi coast officials eye plan for $300M-plus road

July 27, 2019

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Officials along the Mississippi Gulf Coast say it’s time to reopen discussion of a new east-west connector linking the coast’s two largest cities.

Gulf Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Bill Gavin told members of the Gulf Coast Business Council that it would cost an estimated $311 million to build a 12.6-mile (20.3-kilometer) tree-lined parkway connecting Gulfport and Biloxi, local news outlets reported.

The corridor would carry vehicles, rapid bus service, a walking and bike path, and maybe have room for a light rail transit line.

Gavin said planning and securing funding could take four to five years, with construction taking another 10 years. He said the idea is to cut the project into five segments, to make it more affordable.

“That’s a big number, but when you break it down into sections, we’re looking at five sections, that, makes it doable. It’s not an insurmountable amount of money to get,” said Kevin Coggin, executive director of the Coast Transit Authority.

To get funding for the first segment would require that if only one part is built and the rest of the road not finished it would still be useful, Gavin said.

Plans call for building the road parallel to the CSX railroad tracks. That’s different from what was proposed in 2007, when some officials wanted to relocate the CSX tracks north of Interstate 10 and build a roadway on the right-of-way itself.

“This is an idea that’s been around for a long, long time,” said Coast businessman and former Gulfport mayor Brent Warr. The idea arose back in the 1980s, he said. “We’re kind of tired of talking about it. We need to do it,” he said.

The corridor could displace hundreds of businesses and residents in the densely populated area. Gavin promises “epic public outreach.”

“Communication’s going to be key and that’s why we’re starting today in these early stages,” Coggin said, “communicating to the public what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, why we’re doing it, and get them to have a sense of comfort in it. Then we need to do what we say we’re going to do and stick to the time frame of it.”

Funding will be necessary from federal, state and local sources, including BP oil spill recovery funds, Gavin said. Instead of focusing on the cost of the project, Gavin said Coast leaders should look at the value of creating an alternative route to U.S. 90 and Pass Road.

“We need another connection to relieve that congestion,” he said.

The idea will be discussed with the coast delegation from Washington, D.C., on Aug. 29 at the first Coastal Region Transportation Summit.

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