Ten years ago Hurricane Katrina damaged beyond repair the Biloxi Bay and Bay St. Louis Bridges, destruction that cut off many communities in the Biloxi area from each other.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), through processes that allowed bridge design, engineering, permitting and construction to operate concurrently, was able to rebuild the Biloxi Bay Bridge in 26 months and the Bay St. Louis Bridge in 21 months. Normally, such projects could take up to five years to complete.
“Restoring mobility along the Gulf Coast was possible because of the efforts and hard work of many. MDOT workers were on the scene the day of the hurricane, the day after the hurricane and for days, weeks, month and years following,” said Melinda McGrath, MDOT Executive Director.
“MDOT executives provided the decisive, problem-solving leadership to make these bridge replacements happen within an extraordinary timeframe,” said Ricky Lee, former MDOT District 6 engineer.
But MDOT didn’t just rebuild two functioning bridges. The department also honored the state’s commitment to the arts, and salvaged a bit of material, by creating bronze relief plaques from the work of local artists using bearing plates from the old bridges. The plaques, one of which is seen to the right, are attached at points one-tenth of a mile apart on the pedestrian lane of the bridges.
“We all knew the bridge would be our link to true recovery. It was built for the future, and it has given us hope that we can build our town back for the future,” said Hancock County Chancery Clerk, Tim Kellar.
To honor the community and the local artists, MDOT is hosting a recognition event at the Ohr-o-Keefe Museum Katrina + 10 Exhibit in Biloxi Aug. 29. The department also has created a website that provides a retrospective of events following Hurricane Katrina, details on the Katrina + 10 exhibit, hurricane preparedness resources and the new book, Bridging the Road to Renewal: Katrina + 10 at www.GoMDOT.com/hurricanes.