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the people’s choice

BAY ST. LOUIS BRIDGE STORY BY LAYLA ESSARY


PHOTOS COURTESY MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
PHOTOGRAPHER, JOHN THOMAS PHOTOGRAPHY, JOHNTHOMASPHOTOGRAPHY.COM

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D During the heated 2008 elec-
tion season, Ellen Breathe had a
different kind of campaign on
her mind—one involving a
bridge rather than a politician.
built in 1820.
“We lost everything that we
couldn’t pack in the car days
before the storm,” said Breathe,
recalling the difficult task of
(MDOT) replaced the bridge in
record time through a design-
build contract. The $267 mil-
lion bridge was opened to one
lane of traffic in two directions
“We talked this contest up,” cleaning up from a ten foot wall in record time— May of 2007.
said Breathe, describing a of debris piled along their “We all celebrated, our
national “People’s Choice property. Then factor in the entire community was joyous
Award” competition involving impact of losing the nearby over the occasion,” said
the Bay of St. Louis Bridge and bridge and the result was even Breathe. “We were reconnected
nine other competing bridge more devastating. to the rest of the world. It was
projects. “We felt so isolated, so cut great for our family because my
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina off from the rest of the world,” daughter lives right on the
destroyed the Bay of St. Louis said Breathe. That all changed other side of the bridge. It was
Bridge, as well as the Breathe’s when the Mississippi quite spectacular.”
home which was originally Department of Transportation During the bridge recon-

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struction, the Breathe’s took completed in November of Bay of St. Louis Bridge into the
pictures of the building 2007. In the months to come, coveted first place spot.
progress almost every week, the Breath family would learn “We salute our many part-
documenting the historic that the Bay of St. Louis Bridge ners in the reconstruction
undertaking. was vying for the People’s process, and most importantly
“It made us feel like we were Choice Award. “We talked it the resilient people of Bay St.
almost a part of the building up. You better believe it.” Louis, Henderson Point, and
process,” recalled Breathe. The Breathe’s and tens of the surrounding Mississippi
The entire bridge project was thousands of others voted the Gulf Coast communities,” said

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MDOT Executive Director Larry L.
“Butch” Brown. “The beautiful
bridge carries U.S. Highway 90 traffic
between Henderson Point and Bay St.
Louis. This structure brings us one
step closer in rebuilding lives better
than before.”
The American Association of State
Highway and Transportation Officials
(AASHTO) announced the winners of
the American Transportation Award
for the People’s Choice Award at their
annual meeting in Hartford,
Connecticut in October.
MDOT Media and Community
Relations Manager Carrie Adams led
an effort to spread the word about the
prestigious award both close to home
and beyond. Adams and other
Outreach staff members orchestrated
rallies and used the internet to bring
attention to the contest.
“It was thrilling to see this bridge
commended in the award,” said
Adams. “Congratulations to the
Mississippi Department of
Transportation, to its reconstruction
partners and to the strong communi-
ties that rebuilt in such magnificent
fashion.”
Winning this award means a
tremendous amount to people like
Kent Dussom of URS Corporation, a
representative in the consulting engi-
neering firm that was on the job site
daily, monitoring every step of

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progress along the way. rial into mile-marker plaques contests to solicit contour line
Dussom’s oversight role even for both the Biloxi Bay Bridge drawings from coast artists.
led him down unique paths of and Bay of St. Louis Bridge The sculptor has worked to
service along the way, literally. pedestrian walkways. transform those selected art
He was instrumental in com- “Southern Transportation renderings into 3-dimensional
missioning accomplished sculp- Commissioner Wayne Brown bronze plaques. The result is
tor Greg Moran to take rem- wanted to see the recovered artwork with lasting value.”
nants of the destroyed materials used in a unique “This is a testimony to the
bridges— actual bronze bearing way,” said Dussom. “For great team at MDOT, starting
plates- and transform the mate- months we held call to artist with the director and continu-

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ing to the bridge and district engi- bridge design department, you might
neers,” said Commissioner Brown. say.”
“Together they developed a team of The America’s Transportation Award
design builders who created a bridge competitions revealed project innova-
that stands as a symbol to the resilience tion, technology and transportation
of our people. The result is an elegant, solutions that improve safety, relieve
efficient, effective bridge that will serve congestion, improve access to jobs and
motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.” schools and enhances the quality of life
Commissioner Brown added that the in America. AASHTO will donate
people of the Gulf Coast owe a debt of $10,000 to a community program select-
gratitude to their congressional delega- ed by MDOT as part of the award. For
tion, the governor and taxpayers for more information about the award, go
providing 100 percent funding of the to
bridge project. www.americastransportationaward.org.
Artist Greg Moran said he always
dreamed of creating sculptures of last-
ing significance, but never imagined
he’d be a part of something quite this
monumental. “What I am doing, my
craft, my work, has been done for more
than a thousand years. Now I am able
to use my instruments to create some-
thing users of both bridges can enjoy
for a long time,” said Moran.
Enjoying the artwork and the
bridge’s pedestrian walkway is a daily
event for Ellen Breathe. “I feel so fortu-
nate that I get to enjoy this beautiful
bridge every day,” said Breathe. “I
walk to the center of the bridge and
back almost every day. And we take
our love for this bridge wherever we
go. We have become quite savvy in the

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