MDOT plans for more work, but none on U.S. 11

Published 5:15 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Interstate work is planned for Interstate 59 from Nicholson to Hillsdale with in the next four years, but no further work is planned for the ever-increasing traffic on U.S. 11.

In spite of a new location for a nationally known fast food restaurant that set up shop on the corner of U.S. 11 and Mississippi 43 North, there is no more work planned for U.S. 11 to alleviate the additional traffic expected at that intersection. However, work is planned for I-59 to repave, restripe and clear out some more trees from the sides of the road way to make travel safer.

Mississippi Department of Transportation District 6 Engineer Ricky Lee said the work on U.S. 11 currently being conducted should be fully complete within a couple of more weeks, weather permitting. That will include striping and shoulder work for the newly paved and widened road.

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Now that the intersection of Miss. 43 and U.S. 11 is a new location for a chain restaurant, the additional traffic will be a big problem. Lee said he does foresee a problem with north bound traffic turning left off U.S. 11, but until the problem presents itself, not much can be done. If traffic in that area does become a problem, Lee said MDOT would physically restrict access in that lane with vertical bars between the middle lane of U.S. 11 and the north bound lane in front of the restaurant. He said the best route would be for patrons of the establishment to leave and enter through the Miss. 43 access to avoid traffic congestion on U.S. 11.

“If it does happen where it backs up through the signal, then we’ll have to put something up to stop that,” Lee said.

Lee said no more work is planned in the near future for U.S. 11.

Future work that is planned will put a new surface on I-59 from the Nicholson exit to the Hillsdale exit with in about a four-year time frame. MDOT district preconstruction engineer Keith Steele said the whole thing will be split into two separate projects with the first project taking place from Nicholson to McNeill and the second from McNeill to Hillsdale.

Steele said each project would take two years to complete and bids for the first project will be drawn up in February; bids will be taken in March, and work will begin in April. The first project is scheduled to begin in 2007 and the second will begin in 2008.

“The main focus is to rehabilitate the pavement,” Steele said.

In addition to repaving and restriping the interstate, MDOT proposes to increase the clear zone from 30 feet to 50 feet. The clear zone is the area where there are no trees from the edge of the driving surface to the edge of the tree line. Rhea Vincent, with MDOT environmental, said even that much clearance will not prevent trees from landing in the road way if they fall.

Recently, there was road work between the McNeill exit to Mississippi 53 to remove damaged trees from the median on I-59. All the trees were not removed because there was not enough funding, and MDOT wanted to save the magnolias and hardwoods in the median, Steele said. However, if MDOT goes in and does the clear zone project and it looks like there will only be a thin row of trees left in the median, all the trees will be removed, Steele said. Still, MDOT will attempt to save all the magnolias, Vincent said.

The removal of the trees from the clear zone will provide two forms of motorist safety, first it will keep trees from falling too far into the road way and also provide more room for motorists to correct mistakes if they go off the road, Steele said.

McNeill Fire Chief Melvin Glidewell asked if there was anyway MDOT could put turnaround sections in the medians between the Millard and Carriere exits for emergency use. Glidewell said there have been wrecks in that area that are hard to get to since they have to go to the next exit to turn around.

“You’re in a helpless situation,” Glidewell said.

Lee said that he would check on it but since emergency vehicles would not be the only ones using the turnarounds it could pose a problem and safety hazard.