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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

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While homeowners await insurance settlements and building permits before they can start their reconstruction, the largest construction project in Bay St. Louis is moving ahead at full steam. The CSX railroad bridge that spans the Bay of St. Louis from here to Pass Christian is well ahead of schedule.

When MSNBC first visited the project in October, project manager Billy Baughman and his crew were laying 60-foot-long concrete beams across the piers Katrina left sticking out of the water. 

"We just laid the last beam on Monday," Baughman said.  "Now the center of activity is on the swing span."

The swing span is a section of bridge that literally swings open to allow boat traffic through; it needs to be repaired and completely rewired.

The original schedule was to get the first train across the bridge by Feb. 28, but Baughman estimates they're about three weeks ahead of that.

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51 COMMENTS

Amazing how much more effecient private enterprise is then government buracreacy. If we were smart we would ask for the government to do less -- not more. I wonder how much better the levees in New Orleans would have been if they were not owned and maintained by the government.

it is always good to see anything ahead of schedule...but getting the railroad running should expeade the tranportion of materials to rebuild with...great work CSX

remember the levees were owned and maintained by the local and state government, right? The very people who lived there are the ones who built them inadequately.

Doug wonders how much better the levees would be without the gov't. Well, Doug, it might interest you to know that private companies built the levees under gov't. contract. So, I guess the question should be, "I wonder how good the levees would be if private companies hadn't shorted the pilings?"

Private efficiency, indeed!

I have such wonderful memories of summers from Bay St. Louis to Pass Christian. Seeing the progress is a NICE way to start my Sunday.

Randy, the state and local governments own the land the levees stand on, but they were designed, built and structurely maintained by the federal government.

I was just a little bit of a lift in spirit to see this story today. It is a good thought that maybe just a few things will start to move and improve again. If only now I would hear that the animal shelter in Hancock County (Bay/Waveland area) could get some much needed help. Read in the paper today that it is in miserable condition, the people that try to help the animals are suffering and the animals are suffering more. The SPCA from Diamondhead are begging for some help for this shelter.

RedScare, as with all government projects, the lowest bidder wins. That predicates shortcuts will likely be taken by the "private" entity to be able to make a slim margin of profitability. That should make you sit back and wonder about other government projects.

Think about this. The government has been unsuccessful with everything and anything they put their stamp on i,e, Social Security, Welfare and it's so-called reform, and the list goes on. You get the point. So why would we expect different? That would be the definition of insanity. I challenge anyone to name one thing they haven't screwd up that they have a vested interest in. Why would this be any different? And yes, the lowest bidder wins. That spells it out right there. You ALWAYS get what you pay for. Discounted price equals discounted service.

This post gives a false sense of progress along the MS Gulf Coast. Work on the railroad bridge is not exactly the hot issue, when the shock wave is still reverberating among all coastal residents upon seeing work STOP on the critical BSL bridge and Biloxi Bay bridge that connect Hwy 90 along the coastline. Communities are crippled without these essential bridges, and work is stopped because Congress decided not to provide funds to recover from Katrina (this nation's greatest disaster, natural or otherwise)! Funding to recover from 9/11 was authorized by Congress 44 days after the event; now, more than 100 days after Katrina, it is still not provided by Congress. It doesn't even make the news! School districts are about to become bankrupt, and probably cities and counties as well. Not only that essential funding is missing, but funding to recoup homeowners who were told by the government (FEMA, remember FEMA) that they were not required to carry flood insurance because they did not live in a flood plain. Also no effort has been made to get insurance companies to pay out on the few existing claims that were filed. Our government has decided to turn the other way and not help. It is quite simply an abomination.

Here is an article in the Sun Herald today that details the lack of funding:

http://www.sunherald.com/mld/sunherald/13381082.htm

a word about what gets built and why... When the commerce of your company is negatively affected by something, it PAYS you to fix it, quickly. Fixing a rail bridge is that. Roads on the other hand DO belong to THE people and do affect commerce, BUT the reckonig of who it cost, how much and so forth is a lot more remote, to the point that most people do not see themselves as part of the process [ie. the owners] of streets and such. It is in a company's best interest to fix a bridge. It is in the public's best interest too, but who is going to take point and get it done?

If it is a thorn in everyone's side [and it is] get the grassroots to lobby your representative AND the company's that use those roads. Who will in turn lobby THEIR representatives... when push comes to shove it is in every one's best interest to push congress. Without that? It may be awhile.

Margie, you're still complaining about a lack of public funding even after learning that private bridges are ahead of schedule while public bridge projects are in stasis?

Could it be that the problem is our society has become too reliant on a government that is made up of nothing stronger than other people like you?

Sure, they make themselves sound like all powerful supermen at every turn, but sooner or later you're going to have to open your eyes and see the man behind the curtain.

Just don't let Bechtel build any of it. Ask the people of Midland Michigan about their "nuclear" power plant. Whatever did happen to those core samples?

It's nice to see some good news from the area.

G Mc,

The government you're referring to is the U.S. government. Not all governments bind themselves to accepting the lowest possible bid.

Germany, for instance, awards road construction bids to the company that guarantees the road the longest.

My county *never* puts itself in a situation where the lowest possible bid is the one they're required to accept.

There's work to be done here. We, in the US, need to convey the message to our elected officials that "lowest possible price" isn't *necessarily* the best way to go and to improve the bid process.

The levees were built and maintained by the city and state. There lies the problem it is on the city of New orleans and the Governor. the mayor and Governor can cry wolf all day but bottom line is thet both were dysfunctional and still are.

Its good to see some progress being mensioned of in the news. I'm used to hearing, "What problems lye ahead for New Orleans? I heard the population has been cut..." And so on.

Good to hear, good news....

The lowest bidder wins government contracts because we, the people (not necessarily myself), complain about government waste leading to higher taxes. I don't mind paying taxes for service, but if there is no tax revenue (as a result in tax cuts), then we get cut rate construction and services. It isn't possible to have it both ways: low taxes, no waste, quick turn around on project completion, no waitlists, and no oversight of quality - like the levees. If the government paid more for better construction (including hiring enough government construction engineers to closely inspect the project), then total project costs go up -- the refrain is that the government wastes money because private industry can do it cheaper, faster, etc. Government projects also take more time because public input as required by law (from all who care to participate) takes time. And if my memory serves me correctly, CSX (the railroad company in this story) had to go to the federal government for a financial bailout because of inefficient operation. The degree of devastation makes it nearly impossible to adequately plan and execute reconstruction quickly. Of course, I'm not living in a tent so it's much easier for me to take the long view. Whenever I feel stressed out for a moment, I just remind myself I don't live in the Katrina footprint; then life doesn't seem that bad.

I want to commend the work of Billy Baughman and his crew of Mississippi men. They are working tirelessly, night and day to complete the bridge. While there is much to be done in the Bay... so much... the quick work on the bridge is a sign of real hope and progress. Why is it going so well? I met Billy this Thanksgiving and I think I can tell you. This crew cares. They feed at least a 100 or so people in the area, in addition to their crew, every day, and here's a quote from Billy. "I can't say enough about how good these people have been to us. A lady near our operations site lost everything, and she brought US a craft of hot coffee one cold morning!" Billy is frustrated by the lack of progress elsewhere. He's from a bit further north in Mississippi, and he really wants to help. He's kind, he's pragmatic, and here's another quote, "I'll do anything for these people. You just tell me what you need." Well, I did, and he said he'd see that it got done. His company is really good at what they do: railroad bridges. Too bad they are not even in the bidding for the auto bridge across the Bay: "That'll go to a government contractor... and it'll take twice as long as it needs to...but we don't do auto bridges." These guys are also good at being encouraging. "We're going to bring in a big Christmas tree, pour a slab wherever you want it, and have a big city wide lighting ceremony. It'll have it's own genereator." Ends up the slab will also now be the site of Our Lady of the Gulf Church's historical marker, and if a new stand for it can be found, he'll seat the marker too, when they pull out the tree. These men were an inspiration to me, when I was volunteering in the Bay. Billy was a real source of encouragement, and is a man of great compassion. When he saw me tearing up about the destruction to my home town, he said, "The man who can look at what these people have been through and not shed a tear is one cold..." I repeat that to myself when I get frustrated about how deeply sad and emotional I feel. God bless Mississippi men, and all those who can face this great storm's destruction with realism and compassion!

ResScare thinks private contractors built the NO levees. Me thinks it weird that Red considers the Army Core of Engineers to be a "private contractor."

Re Randy of OKC and Jimmy of Fort Walton comments: the levees in New Orleans and the surrounding areas were not designed or built by local and state government. They were designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under authority from an Act by the U.S. Congress from the late 1960's after Hurricane Betsy caused levee failure. The dissipation of Louisiana wetlands, which act as a buffer from storm surge, has been caused by Corps of Engineers water projects to keep the Mississippi River depth to aid navigation and by dredging an intracoastal waterway providing a short cut from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico, among others. Offshore oil drilling based on federal leases off Louisiana's coast has also contributed to coastal erosion, even though Louisiana enjoys no revenues from the oil production like Texas and Florida do.

David, you are right!!! teamsters and other large {and small} trucking companies who can't run efficient routes because of the missing bridges would shurly have more an effect on lobbying elected officials to rebuild quickly....than the common joe

Re Randy of OKC and Jimmy of Fort Walton comments: the levees in New Orleans and the surrounding areas were not designed or built by local and state government. They were designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under authority from an Act by the U.S. Congress from the late 1960's after Hurricane Betsy caused levee failure. The dissipation of Louisiana wetlands, which act as a buffer from storm surge, has been caused by Corps of Engineers water projects to keep the Mississippi River depth to aid navigation and by dredging an intracoastal waterway providing a short cut from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico, among others. Offshore oil drilling based on federal leases off Louisiana's coast has also contributed to coastal erosion, even though Louisiana enjoys no revenues from the oil production like Texas and Florida do.

A few years ago in Oklahoma, a barge knocked down a section of a I-40 across the Arkansas river. The job was bid out not necessarily the cheapest, but who could get it done the quickest. The company was offered a bonus based on how far ahead of schedule they completed the project. It was completed in record time, the company received a healthy bonus, and the critical interstate was back in operation.

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