Response positive for Ridge Road improvements

Published 2:34 am Sunday, January 25, 2009

If the reactions of those attending the public meeting for the Ridge Road improvements Thursday night are any indication, Pearl River County’s Board of Supervisors will have the support of county residents for the proposed $16.3 million in improvements for Ridge Road.

“I think it’s needed,” said Don Kennedy who lives in a subdivision off the existing Ridge Road.

“So do I,” said Reed Frierson as they perused the large maps of the proposed routes, discussing amongst themselves the pros and cons of each alternative route.

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The county supervisors, working with a federal grant, have hired Pickering Environmental Consultants to draw up several proposed alternatives for the improvement and extension of Ridge Road, linking Mississippi Highways 43 and 607. For the majority of those attending the public forum, the consensus favored either alternative route E which would come in just south of Wal-Mart and before the bulk plant, or alternative route F, which is located a little further south and crossing diagonally to Ridge Road near the airport.

County engineer Les Dungan said that he favored alternative F, but with it exiting onto Miss. Hwy. 607 approximately a mile south of Asa McQueen Road.

According to Dungan, the Ridge Road improvements would more than triple the width of Ridge Road. Dungan said that presently Ridge Road is 40 feet wide, including the county right of way. He said the new road would be two lanes, with shoulders and drainage, totaling 120 feet wide. “We are talking about tripling it,” said Dungan. “The design would be very similar to Texas Flat Road, West Union, Caesar Road.”

Several residents questioned whether the proposed road improvements could actually bring in future development. “They keep talking about future development,” said one resident. “But 100 feet past this man’s house is the (NASA) buffer zone.”

Dungan said that how much property would be available for development actually depended on which route was chosen. “Well, it depends which alternative we use,” said Dungan, saying that either alternative E or F would open more land for development.

Mike Fitzwilliam, a Picayune Airport Committee member, told Craig that the airport needed to be kept in consideration no matter which alternative was chosen. “We want to make the airport attractive,” said Fitzwilliam, adding that even though there were no plans for lighting the entire route, officials should consider lights to the airport. “Lighting to the airport is important,” he said.

Dungan agreed, saying that county officials “can consider lighting.”

Curt Craig, principle owner of Pickering, told those in attendance to write down their comments and send them in. “Please write your comments down,” said Craig, pointing out that each brochure had a pre-addressed form. “You can even e-mail your comments in.”

Craig said that at this stage in the proposal, his firm had drawn up several alternatives so that each individually could be either dismissed as a possibility or explored more in depth. “At this point, what we are trying to do is look at multiple alternatives,” said Craig, adding that residents needed to think about the future. “We have to think about what are the impacts if we don’t do anything at all.”

Supervisor Patrick Lee was at the forum, answering questions as well. “I think this project has a whole lot of potential,” said Lee, adding that he liked how the forum was set up. “I like how everyone can give their opinion.”

Lee said the board of supervisors would take all the comments into consideration, saying that rebuilding the connection between Miss. Hwys. 43 and 607 was a win-win situation. “It is all good for the county,” said Lee. “It would alleviate a lot of traffic issues and stimulate economic development. We could kill a few birds with one stone.”

Lee said funds for the entire project would come from federal monies, adding that the board had several avenues to explore for the financial backing to make it happen. The brochure handed out by Pickering estimates the project, from beginning to end, could take five to ten years, depending on the availability of funding.

Those wishing to comment or make suggestions on the project may e-mail them, along with their name, address, and telephone number to; or mail them to Pickering, Attn.: Wes Roberts, 460 Briarwood Dr., Briarwood One, Suite 515, Jackson, MS 39206. Pickering asks those making comments to include their primary interest in the project, such as resident, business, or land owner, as well as what they feel are major issues including relocations, wetlands, wildlife, noise, safety, and traffic volume. The firm also asks which alternative a person would prefer, recommendations and comments or concerns. All comments must be received by Feb. 21.