MDOT’s 43 proposal stirs up “hornet nest” in Kiln

Published 2:46 pm Thursday, June 30, 2011

MDOT’s proposal to make Miss. Hwy. 43 a limited-access, four-lane thoroughfare, connecting Interstate 10 just south of here with Interstate 59 near Picayune and Carriere, generated some controversy in communities near Picayune where it would uproot farms that’s been in families for decades, but no controversy near Picayune compares to the “hornet nest” the MDOT proposal stirred up here and in the halls of Hancock County government.

Merchants here say the proposal, if approved, would kill Kiln stone dead, and Hancock County Supervisor Rocky Pullen bluntly said, “It’s going to be my way, or there’s no highway,” the Sea Coast Echo’s Dwayne Bremer reported.

What MDOT wants is a straight shot from the Gulf Coast that could be used as another hurricane evacuation route northward: Hence, the limited-access, four-lane  road proposed   to run up near Mississippi Highway 603 and connect with Mississippi Highway 43 to Picayune and on to I-59.

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However, plans show that both proposed new routes bypass Kiln on both the east and west sides of the small community located on Miss. 603 between Miss. 43 and I-10, and businessmen with businesses here say motorists who see an establishment in their rear-view mirror won’t turn around and come back to Kiln.

Besides, they say, an exit will be miles away.

Businessmen here also are saying that even talk of what MDOT is planning is discouraging businesses from locating here. “They don’t know what the future holds on this proposal, so they just put their plans for expansion or location here on hold,” said one businessman.

Pullman, who lives in Pearlington and is president of the Hancock County board of supervisors, is outspoken and blunt: “MDOT does not have this money. We lobbied for this money. I’m not building a road for Pearl River County. The only thing we intended to do was eliminate the traffic congestion on Hwy. 603 and help with evacuation routes.”

The proposed project is estimated to cost $35 million and is part of what is called the Ground Zero Action plan, under which Hancock was given $200 million for Katrina recovery projects, Bremer reported.

Members of the Kiln Business Council appeared before Hancock County supervisors last week and voiced opposition to the way the proposed Miss. 43 project is drawn.

Said businessman Roland “Boobie” Cuevas, “We don’t want them to take our traffic. All we would be left with is our mortgages.”

Said Pullman, “Our mission has been to improve Hwy. 603 to Hwy. 43. That has been said 1,000 times. We need to make sure that the $35 million stays in Hancock County for hurricane evacuation and safety.

“They (MDOT) are steering in one direction, but we want another direction. We still hold the purse strings to this money. It’s going to be my way or there’s no highway.”

Said District Four Supervisor Steve Seymour, “If they don’t listen to the voice of Hancock County, then we need to see if this money can be pulled back for the betterment of the people. Every day MDOT is spending money on surveys. We need to sit down with them, and tell them how we feel.”

Pullman told the businessmen that there will be other public hearings on the issue.

(News reports and information by Dwayne Bremer with Bay St. Louis’s The Sea Coast Echo published in Bay St. Louis were used in this report.)