Private Company Proposes Toll Bridge Replacement for Popp’s Ferry Bridge

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BILOXI, Mississippi (WLOX) – A development group working on replacing the Popp ferry bridge in Biloxi unveiled their plan to city leaders on Tuesday with a pledge.

“When I say certainty, I mean 100% certain in terms of delivering the new bridge by 2026,” United Bridge Partners president / CEO Doug Witt told city council members.

United Bridge Partners have revealed sketches of a four-lane bridge without a draw, but with a toll between $ 1 and $ 1.30.

The proposal provides for a monthly tag that can be purchased for frequent passengers, reduced prices for families traveling to and from school, and no tolls for emergency vehicles and public / school buses. Fees will not be collected per stand. Instead, drivers can opt for a tag that would electronically bill an account or they will be billed by mail using license plate reading technology.

Financial costs from residents’ pockets have left some council members with questions about how to possibly lower the toll.

“I think (City Councilor George Lawrence) raised something about the money paired with federal funds and maybe FEMA grants, infrastructure deals,” the city councilor said. Felix Gines to developers.

Project leaders responded by saying that privately funded bridges are built faster and that there is little guarantee that state and federal groups will help cover the costs. With this plan, the private entity would fully pay for the $ 170 million project and establish an office in the city to deal with maintenance, questions and complaints.

“In 2019, only about 5-10% of federal grant applications were awarded. So getting these grants is extremely competitive, ”said Ryan Dolan, vice president of business development for United Bridge Partners. “This is a de-energized system, or a bridge, that does not belong to the state. Very often a project like this will not be prioritized at the state level.

Dolan and Witt both insisted that speed was the key, especially with rising inflation and difficulty obtaining materials. Officials said if council does not vote on a contract soon, the initial price of the bridge could skyrocket to more than $ 260 million if project approval is delayed for two years.

As the developers curate the first contract to be put to the board for a vote, they point out that the proposed project could help with the aging mechanics of the old structure and hurricane escape routes.

“The project needs to increase the capacity of the entire roadway. This will improve traffic jams and traffic delays, ”Dolan said.

The developers said they would also do more research and rate the public on what they think about the project, especially the toll. Another assessment is to see if the project needs to buy 80 houses to make room for the bridge. Developers hope they can buy fewer properties to cut costs.

“We put Biloxi first and you are a high priority for us,” Witt said.

United Bridge Partners has also offered to pay the city a development fee of $ 2 million, as well as being a contributing member of the coast through charities and community groups / events.

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