December 02, 2005

Building a new Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge

A lot of discussion and debate from all over has gone into the proposal to replace US 90's bridge over Biloxi Bay (locally known as the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge) in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Many are at odds with MDOT because the feel MDOT is forcing their plan for the bridge down on them...especially those in Ocean Springs. Complaints up the wazoo have been made against MDOT for the way they're handling the situation. The SunHerald seems to have an article, letter, or sound byte every day about the bridge. From my unscientific poll, it seems comments in the SunHerald are 40/60 for/against MDOT's bridge plan.

Here's MDOT's plan: their plan is for a 93-ft high-rise bridge (high enough to eliminate the need for a draw span) at the same location as the bridge destroyed by Katrina. The bridge would be 6 lanes wide plus full shoulders and a bike/ped path...the cited width of the bridge is 120-ft.

The New Urbanists and Renewal Forumers, not surprisingly, are solidly against MDOT's plan. They feel A) that the bridge should be built along the CSX RR corridor, to tie into their vision of a relocated US 90 along the CSX corridor through Biloxi and Gulfport, and B) that the bridge should be no more than 4 lanes wide.

MDOT originally wanted the bridge contact let by the end of November. That's been put on hold due to a holdup in federal relief/recovery dollars...MDOT claims they've already spent $100 million on hurricane recovery, and until yesterday had only received $5 million in reimbursement from the Feds. Yesterday they got $20 million more, but that still leaves a $75 million backlog...significant when one considers a new Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge will easily top $200 million, regardless of the design/location chosen.

My take on the bridge: I've borrowed elements from both sides in crafting my proposal. First up: MDOT should build a 2-lane "temporary" span at the existing location to get US 90 traffic at least moving and avoid an up-to-10-mile detour via I-10. The New Urbanists feel that this is the right way to go until a permanent bridge can be agreed upon and built, and I tend to agree.

My "permanent" solution, which is hingent on the CSX tracks being relocated north of I-10 as many propose, is to build a signature span generally at the location of the CSX RR crossing of Biloxi Bay. This span should be aesthetic in design, a high-bridge to eliminate need for a drawbridge span, and have 6 traffic lanes. The New Urbanists disagree, but I feel existing traffic is borderline enough to justify 6 lanes, and future traffic volumes will certainly warrant a wider span. Rather than full shoulders on both sides of each roadway, I would carry a 2-ft left shoulder and a 10-ft right shoulder on each side. My signature span would also carry a dual-track LRT line across the Bay. Although my span is wider than MDOT's proposal (132-ft vs 120-ft), my span carries both vehicle lanes and rail transit.

With a "permanent" span, the 2-lane "temporary" span could then be converted into a bicycle/pedestrian crossing, providing non-vehicular traffic a means to get across Biloxi Bay.

This and my other ideas for my transportation vision for the Gulf Coast can be found on my website here:

November 08, 2005

A bit on gas prices...

There have been a lot of people along the Mississippi Gulf Coast complaining about gas prices and how much higher they are compared to nearby areas (like Mobile, Meridian, and Jackson). Many are claiming that the oil companies are price-gouging.

While I'm not discounting the possibility of price-gouging, I have to stop and wonder if any of these complainers have considered that...:

A) there are a lot more people along the coast...not just from New Orleans refugees but also *A LOT* of relief, recovery, and reconstruction workers.

B) because of (A), there are a lot more vehicles and a lot more traffic out on the road, using up a lot more gas than is normal around here.

It's a quintessential example of supply-and-demand.

Regarding (A), someone told me recently that officials are estimating there are around 45,000 people in Picayune right now. Before the hurricane, Picayune had around 11,000...

November 01, 2005

More catching up...

This time with my household goods...all that survived was my dining room table, and even that took some damage, though I think I'll be able to sand it down and refinish it.

As an aside, I never realized just how expensive kitchen stuff could be until I had to go and replace it all...

October 02, 2005

A bit of catching-up

Quick notes since I haven't been on this thing in a month...

- My apartment fared quite well...only minor ceiling damage. My household goods are another story...even at this point, I still have no word on them.

- Not quite as much damage around Picayune as I thought there would have been. Most of it was wind damage...flying debris and such. Of course, you'd never know that from watching the news media, as they never made it up here after the storm...

- Household goods aside, things are starting to get back to normal...more or less back to normal ops at Stennis, which means I'll finally be getting busy with what I came down here to do originally.

August 31, 2005

Should I be here or there?

Part of me now kinda wishes that I'd have stayed back at Stennis. At least then I'd be in a position to do something and help out, albeit at the price of no power, no Internet, and no idea how I'd be able to eat or take a shower.

So part of me is glad that I did evacuate when I did. My friends Billy and Seth have been great, and I'm grateful for them offering me a place to stay during this...event. But I can't help but feel a little guilty about having food, water, a shower, Internet, and a real mattress to sleep on when my co-workers who stayed behind probably aren't in that same situation.

I hope the situation improves....and soon. I'm sure Stennis is more or less intact, but I want to know if I still have an apartment to go back to....or if I still have any household goods.

August 30, 2005

The good and bad of Katrina...

Starting with the good:

- I'm still in good health.
- Still have my laptop and car intact and functional.
- There's at least some promising reports of rescues and goodwill from the Coast.
- At least one Biloxi landmark (the Beau Rivage) is still standing.
- Most of the French Quarter looks to be more or less intact.
- Friends who are letting me stay with them as long as I need to.

Now to the bad...and unfortunately there's a lot of it:

- Damage and death by the score (no need to go into details's plastered enough across the news media).
- No word on when we'll be able to return.
- *NO* word on any of my friends or co-workers.
- *NO* word on whether I still have an office or an apartment to come back to.
- No word on the status of my household goods, which were supposed to be delivered to my apartment tomorrow (fat chance of that happening now), and last word I had were sitting somewhere in Biloxi.

A special rant for the news media, who seem to be concentrating on New Orleans and Mobile, and a little bit on Gulfport/Biloxi. What about the rest of the region? Picayune, for example, is a decent sized town, yet there's been no word whatsoever on its status...and there's been very little out of Slidell either. How about spreading out some of the coverage? At least *ONE* news item or status report would be nice from areas that haven't received such over the news...

That's enough from me. I'm gonna play Civilization now...

What a way to start...

Been thinking about setting up a blog for months now, and just finally got around to it....though the circumstances behind my setting it up aren't the greatest. The Deep South's latest enemy, Katrina, pushed me north out of Picayune a week-and-a-half after reporting to Stennis (my new duty station) and barely 4 days after getting my new apartment. I've had a rant formulating about the situation for a couple days now, which gave me enough motivation to finally set up a blog (though I took the lazy way out and didn't put it on my website directly). Maybe I'll get around to that one of these days...