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Biloxi rejects developer’s proposal for $150M toll bridge

March 6, 2022 GMT

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — City officials in Biloxi have rejected a private developer’s proposal to replace a 43-year-old drawbridge with a $150 million span that would be funded by tolls.

City Hall announced Friday that Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich told the developer there was a lack of public support for a new Popp’s Ferry bridge financed by user tolls of $1 to $1.25 per crossing, The Sun Herald reported.

“As matters currently stand, the city does not feel there is adequate support for a tolling solution,” Gilich said.

Officials say the two-lane drawbridge built in 1979 is in need of repairs, and some have advocated replacing it altogether.

Residents were sharply divided when the proposal for a toll bridge became public in November. The plan by United Bridge Partners of Denver would have widened the bridge and raised it — eliminating the need for a drawbridge that stopped traffic. Some business leaders, such as local bank president Chevis Swetman, spoke out in favor the toll bridge. Others, including Barq’s Root Beer descendant Robert Barq, publicly opposed it.

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Many residents balked at the proposed toll, with some vowing they would drive out of their way to avoid having to pay to use the bridge

The mayor said Biloxi will seek funding to repair or replace the bridge through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as well as “explore other options that may be available, such as repair and remediation of the existing Popp’s Ferry draw span.”

Officials have said repairing the existing bridge would cost about $15 million.

“In the last few weeks, additional funds have become available for repair and remediation, and the city believes time is of the essence for that alternative,” Gilich said.