The "H" route was selected by Biloxi leaders by a split vote in 2001. Biloxi City Council asked for a reconsideration of the route in December 2005 after a Governor Commission recommendation against elevated highways.6
The projected path of Mississippi 601 took the Central Harrison Connector south from near the Interstate 10 interchange with Canal Road to 30th Avenue in Gulfport. The project would have likely included a temporary access road linking the freeway with Canal Road until funding was made available for the massive interchange with MS-601 north and I-10.
Interstate 310, also known as Mississippi 601, was the Canal Road - Port Connector in Gulfport.4 It was proposed to begin at a new interchange with Interstate 10 that would also serve as the southern terminus of the proposed U.S. 49 Gulfport to Hattiesburg freeway (also known as Mississippi 601 North). From there, Interstate 310 was planned to travel south to the port of Gulfport, where it would end.
The highway was originally considered for designation as Interstate 210, but was later planned as Interstate 310 since the freeway would comprise a spur from I-10 to the Port of Gulfport and not return northward.2 Despite an expenditure by the state of Mississippi of $158.5 million for preliminary engineering, rights-of-way, land clearing and utility relocation, the Port Connector project is still many years away from completion due to a required restart of environmental permitting and lack of funds.5
Land clearing was completed along a swath of right of way reserved for the Central Harrison Connector in 2011. This view looks south from South Boulevard near Gulfport Dragway. Photo taken April 5, 2012.
Route Status / Central Harrison Connector
Planning commenced for the new six-mile freeway in 1994 and initial money for the project was allocated by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) in 1996.5 The time table for construction in 2006 was thought to run between four and five years after funding was made available. Initial projections envisioned completion for the connector around 2012.3,4
Tentatively touted as Interstate 310, the Central Harrison Connector was estimated to cost $300 million. Design began in 2005, with right of way acquisition following in 2006.4 Construction was scheduled to begin in 2008,2 but had not through May 2009. Had it been approved, the federal government would cover 90% of the maintenance costs of the new freeway. The freeway otherwise was added to the state highway network with Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) footing the entire bill.1
The design of Interstate 310 preferred by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) incorporated an elevated viaduct freeway. This drew immediate criticism from Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr, who preferred an at-grade alignment for the freeway.2 The concern was that the areas below the elevated freeway would deteriorate in the same manner as the neighborhoods below elevated Interstate 110 in Biloxi. See Central Harrison County Connector Highway Project History from MDOT for more detail.
The Central Harrison Connector gained importance following the federal government funded plan to expand the state Port of Gulfport. The $570 million expansion was expected to dramatically increase container cargo. Plans for the port changed however, and no new container-cargo tenants had signed on for the port by 2016.5
A number of delays pushed the port expansion completion date back, which is now slated for 2017. This effected plans for the Central Harrison Connector, with the route challenged in state and federal court. A court decision in 2011 required MDOT to restart the environmental process, setting back the route time table and increasing costs. The Connector needs an estimated $215 million as of 2016, which is unlikely given a lack of funding for projects statewide.5
East Harrison Connector
An adjacent freeway proposal that was under consideration involved another limited access highway, the East Harrison Connector, from Interstate 10 at the Woolmarket interchange (Exit 41) southward into Biloxi. Plans for that route called for a four to six lane roadway over Popps Ferry Road en route to a high-level bridge across the Back Bay of Biloxi1. South onto the Biloxi peninsula, the connector would pass by Hiller park and then run south along Veterans Avenue to end at U.S. 90 east of the Treasure Bay Casino.6
Northern Terminus - Interstate 10 west of U.S. 49 - Gulfport, Mississippi
The north end of Interstate 310 would tie into the Mississippi 601 freeway leading north from Interstate 10 parallel to U.S. 61.
Southern Terminus - U.S. 90 & the Port of Gulfport - Gulfport, Mississippi
Plans for the south end of the Central Harrison Connector took the route across U.S. 90 at 27th Avenue into the Port of Gulfport.
"Road plan for Biloxi in design stages." The Clarion-Ledger, August 1, 2005.
"Elevated route from I-10 to port will divide city, Gulfport Mayor tells MDOT panel," by Laura Hipp, The Clarion-Ledger, April 12, 2006.
"Road projects in progress: Route would link Biloxi to I-10." Sun-Herald, December 17, 2006.