KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Keesler Air Force Base leadership and Mississippi state and local government officials, came together to break ground on the Division Street Gate during a ground breaking ceremony here, May 11, 2018.
The Division Street Gate is a project 16 years in the making and the culmination of a concerted effort between the city of Biloxi, the state of Mississippi, Keesler and the U.S. Air Force. The new gate will replace the commercial gate, which currently routes traffic through the Oak Park community, and the White Avenue Gate, which is near U.S. Highway 90 and requires members to traverse active railroad tracks to enter and exit the base.
“This has been a long time in the making and this partnership, this project and the method we used to get here today to put shovels in the ground is something we have never done in the Air Force,” said Col. Debra Lovette, 81st Training Wing commander. “The only community that lets us do what we do, the way we do it and how we do it, to the level we do it is this community right here. So I just want to say thank you for that. It’s amazing.”
The new gate will benefit the base and the city in many ways Col. Danny Davis, 81st Mission Support Group commander, explained. The base’s partnership with the Oak Park community will strengthen as the base moves commercial traffic away from their neighborhood. The partnership with the city will strengthen as the base moves traffic away from White Avenue and U.S. Highway 90. Finally, the overall safety and security posture will increase as the base moves traffic away from an active railroad.
“The new gate alleviates anti-terrorism, force protection and safety issues that have been historical concerns for the base,” said Davis. “Additionally, the corridor from Interstate 110 along Division Street will increase in economic development and business buildup. This area will be a tremendous addition to an already beautiful place like Biloxi.”
Furthermore, Davis explained that a significant portion of the construction efforts will be spent widening Division Street into a four-lane road, which will open up the base for personnel coming directly in from I- 110, as well as help to stimulate the local economy in East Biloxi. The estimated $37 million project will be at the intersection of Forrest Avenue and Division Street and take approximately two years to complete.
“Keesler trains 31,000 students a year with 500 classes; it is the electronic center of excellence for the U.S. Air Force and trains the premier warfighters for the Air Force,” said Phil Bryant, Governor of Mississippi. “Their security and their economic impact is critical to not only the city of Biloxi, but the Mississippi Gulf Coast and with the help of the state legislatures and everyone who has contributed to this project, we are honored to partner with Keesler and the city of Biloxi to make this happen today.”