U.S. Route 90 (Mississippi)

The Route

Highway 90 enters Mississippi at the old Pearl River Bridge. It heads east along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, passing through Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Gulfport, Biloxi, Moss Point, and Pascagoula, before crossing into Alabama west of Mobile. From the Louisiana border to Highway 607 near the Stennis Space Flight Center, Highway 90 is two lanes. East of Stennis, Highway 90 carries four lanes to Pascagoula. East of Pascagoula Highway 90 reverts to 2 lanes to the Alabama line. Highway is lined with several historical landmarks, the most famous of which are Beauvoir—the post-Civil War home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and the Biloxi Lighthouse.

History of Highway 90

Colonial Trade Route

The Spanish were the first to establish settlements along the Gulf Coast from Florida to New Orleans in the 1600s. The territory that is now southern Mississippi would be exchanged several times during its colonial era. It was occupied first by the Spanish in the 1600s. It came under French rule in 1699 when Pierre LeMoyne d'Iberville led an expedition south from Canada. While attempting to locate the mouth of the Mississippi River, d'Iberville arrived at the Mississippi Gulf Coast and founded the city of Biloxi.1 The Mississippi Gulf Coast was purchased by the United States from France in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. An overland route linking the coastal settlements largely followed today's Highway 90. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the gulf coast route became important for the movement of people and goods from developing port cities such as New Orleans, Biloxi, and Mobile to areas further north and east.

Early Years of Highway 90

At the turn of the 20th Century, the road that would become Highway 90 linked several towns along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Local officials attempted to pave the road and build bridges across St. Louis Bay and the Biloxi Back Bay during the 1910s, but susbtantial upgrades to the unpaved road would not occur until 1926 when the coastal road was added to the US highway network, and Mississippi received federal funding to modernize Highway 90. That year the bridge across the Pearl River opened. 1927 saw the completion of the original wooden bridge across St. Louis Bay, and the Pascagoula Bridge opened in 1928 . The Veterans Memorial Bridge spanning the Biloxi Back Bay opened in 1930.2

Economic Growth Prompts Highway 90 Upgrades

World War II brought rapid economic expansion, with Gulfport and Pascagoula becoming key shipbuilding ports. Major military installations were established in Biloxi (Keesler Air Force Base), Gulfport, and Pascagoula. The sudden influx of people led to rapid economic development and severe congestion on Highway 90. To address traffic issues on Beach Boulevard, as most of Highway 90 in Mississippi is known, engineers began expanding it to 4 lanes in the late 1940s. In most areas a second carriageway was built alongside the existing 2-lane road. After the new lanes were completed, the original road was restriped to carry two lanes in the same direction. New bridges were constructed across the Biloxi Back Bay (1962), St. Louis Bay (1952), and the Pascagoula River (1954). The 1930 bridge across the Back Bay remained in place after the 4-lane bridge opened in 1959, and was used as a fishing pier until it was washed away by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Highway 90 Bypassed by I-10

Construction on Interstate 10 through southern Mississippi began in the late 1960s and continued over the ensuing 20 years. The first portion of I-10 opened from the Louisiana border to Highway 607 in 1971. The section from Highway 607 to Highway 57 opened in the late 1970s, as did the portion from Moss Point to the Alabama line. The last portion fo Highway 10 from highway 57 to Moss Point opened in 1988, completing the highway through Mississippi.

While there was a brief period of decreased traffic on Highway 90, traffic increased once again with the opening of casinos in Biloxi and Gulfport in the 1990s. Hotels, restaurants, and stores followed the opening of the casinos on the Mississippi coast, and Highway 90 became choked with traffic once again. Plans were under discussion to create a bypass of Highway 90 that would largely follow Pass Road, about a mile (1.6 km) north of Highway 90. Before this could happen, the Mississippi Gulf Coast was devastated by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005. Katrina's storm surge and winds destroyed virtually everything along the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Ocean Springs westward.

Rebuilding Highway 90 Following Hurricane Katrina

Large portions of highway 90 were washed away by Hurricane Katrina. The bridge across the St. Louis Bay and both the 1959 bridge and abandoned 1926 bridge across the Biloxi Back Bay were all washed away by the storm surge. Following the storm, the Mississippi Department of transportation awarded two design/build contracts to rebuild the St. Louis Bay and Biloxi Back Bay bridges. Two lanes of the new St. Louis Bay Bridge opened on May 17, 2007. This bridge was opened to 4-lanes on January 5, 2008, and completed with the opening of the pedestrian walkway on February 22, 2008.3 On November 1, 2007, two lanes of the new Biloxi Bay Bridge opened.4

Future of Highway 90

Hurricane Recovery Continues

The Mississippi Department of Transportation continues to reconstruct much of Highway 90 between Biloxi and Bay St. Louis. The Biloxi Bay bridge is due to be completed in April 2008. Additional projects are reconstructing the highway from Biloxi to the St. Louis Bay Bridge, including new pavement and drainage, modernized traffic signals, turn lanes at major intersections, and additional lanes where necessary. The work is being funded mostly with disaster relief funds provided by the Federal Highway Administration.

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