By Jeremy Pittari, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Physical dividers placed along U.S. Highway 11 in front of the K & T Texaco have caused not only safety hazards, but have caused business at the gas station to decline.
The dividers were installed by the Mississippi Department of Transportation as a way to restrict north bound traffic from turning onto Richardson Ozona Road. However the dividers also dissuade north bound traffic from turning into the K&T Texaco for the right reasons.
Owner of K & T Texaco Troy Whitfield said since the dividers were installed his business has decreased by as much as 21 percent. While north bound traffic can still access one of the two entrances to the gas station facing U.S. Hwy. 11, sometimes vehicles enter the lot for the wrong reasons.
During a five minute observation of the area at least four cars pulled into the station from the north bound lane in order to conduct a U-turn to head south on the highway.
Whitfield said the U-turns are not a major concern, but the cars that use his lot to access Richardson Ozona Road are. He said he is concerned for the safety of his customers, since at times the traffic passing through his lot to access Richardson Ozona Road will pass right in front of the business entrance, posing a hazard to pedestrians coming and going at his business.
Whitfield contacted state Sen. Tony Smith to see if Smith could get in touch with MDOT to have some of the dividers removed. Whitfield estimates removing 12 to 15 would alleviate some of his concerns.
Smith stopped by the business Wednesday afternoon to look at the situation. The senator said he has been in touch with MDOT Commissioner Tom King, who sent out an employee to look at the situation Friday. Smith is confident MDOT will be able to help with Whitfield's problem.
No matter what happens, work scheduled to widen U.S. 11 will cut north bound traffic from the K and T Texaco once it is complete. The work will widen the highway from Hide-A-Way to the Hobolochitto bridge, but it will also create a median between the north and south bound lanes from HAWL to the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 11 and Mississippi Highway 43 North. That median will cut off north bound traffic from directly accessing the business, but Whitfield said in the meantime removing some of the barriers will increase his business while he can.
Smith said he has heard the work to widen U.S. Hwy. 11 by MDOT is still on schedule. The last official update given by MDOT projected the $10 million project would begin in 2016. Smith said MDOT is still in the right of way acquisition phase.