A portion of U.S. 11 to soon be widened to five lanes

Published 12:42 am Sunday, March 15, 2009

Additional funding to increase the traffic flow on a portion of U.S. 11 in Picayune has been approved.

Construction to widen the heavily traveled highway to five lanes tentatively will begin late summer of this year, said County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin.

For about a year, funding to improve the traffic flow has been sought. It was not until earlier this month that funding was officially approved, Lumpkin said. In total, about $13 million will be used to five lane the road from the intersection with the entry and exit road at Hide-A-Way Lake to an undetermined point just before U.S. 11 crosses Hobolochitto Creek.

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With construction of the new hospital anticipated to begin in the very near future, a major increase in traffic is expected, Lumpkin said. Together, Pearl River County and Forrest General Hospital, which now owns the old Crosby Memorial Hospital renamed Highland Hospital, agreed to apply for the Mississippi Development Authority Economic Development funds of about $5 million worth. The size of the new hospital’s investment gave the county the opportunity to apply for an additional $2.5 million from Community Development Block Grant funds. The Mississippi Department of Transportation also has agreed to donate another $5 million.

Lumpkin said the best part of the grant is that the county is required put up matching funds of only $1,300, to receive the $13 million.

“That’s what we got to come up with to match… that’s a pretty good grant ratio there,” Lumpkin said.

While that work will five lane the road in that section, engineering work will be needed to bring the lanes back to two before reaching the bridge.

Once construction begins, it is expected to take about 24 to 36 months to complete, Lumpkin said.

District V Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith said that when he was running for office he knew the new hospital coming into that area would make it necessary to deal with the increased traffic. There already have been a number of accidents in the area of the shopping center where Claiborne Hill is located, so Smith expects there to be more traffic problems when hospital is constructed.

“We knew we had to do something with Highway 11 to help the hospital, make it work,” Smith said.

Lumpkin and Smith said they appreciate the MDA, the hospital, Gov. Haley Barbour’s office and MDOT for their parts in securing the funding.

“It almost fell through the cracks, but they manned up,” Smith said.