Roadwork delayed

Published 2:57 am Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mississippi Department of Transportation Southern District Commissioner Wayne Brown recently announced that two road projects for the Picayune area have been postponed.

Also, two other projects in the works may still take place in the future.

The two postponed projects include the widening of U.S. 11 to four lanes through downtown Picayune as well as widening Miss. 43 S. to four lanes from the Interstate 59 exchange to Miss. 603 in Kiln.

Installing four lanes in down town Picayune would require a large amount of right of way acquisition that would relocate a number of businesses.

“You almost got to destroy the town to save the town,” Brown said.

What was a ten year wait, has now turned into a 15 year or more wait, Brown said.

He associated the change in plans to the increased price in petroleum products, such as asphalt, and the limited budget funding he has been receiving for the past ten years, $900 million.

“It’s like your gas, you and your wife don’t travel as much any more,” Brown said.

The only project that may see some work soon would be the widening of U.S. 11 from the intersection of Miss. 43 N. to Hide-A-Way Lake. Brown said that there have been discussions with the county and Highland Community Hospital representatives to apply for Mississippi Development Authority funding in the form of a Community Development Block Grant.

District IV Supervisor Patrick Lee said the county will attempt to request about $5 million in funding, but the projected cost is about $7.5 million. MDOT is expected to assist if MDA would approve the grant.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said the county and the hospital are in the process of filling out that application. The basis for the grant is economic development, said county engineer Les Dungan. Highland Community Hospital’s new location is expected to offer about 100 jobs.

One project still scheduled to take place will be the realignment of Miss. 43 N near Wheat’s curve, Brown said. That project should make the road safer. Right of way acquisition is underway and Brown expects that work to be complete in the next couple of years.

Another project will be a collaboration with NASA and MDOT to four lane Miss. 607 through the Stennis test site.

To help fund the road budget Brown said he is discussing the use of tolling. Tolling is set to take place at the Jackson Airport Parkway. In southern Mississippi there are discussions of tolling a new road to be constructed along Miss. 49. Tolls can only be placed where alternate routes are available.