Changes to traffic will occur when hospital opens

Published 3:32 pm Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Motorists who use Richardson Ozona Road on a regular basis will have to adapt their route to circumvent some expected growing pains associated with the opening of the new Highland Community Hospital at its location near the intersection of the road with U.S. Highway 11.

The changes will be due to the installation of a new traffic light at the intersection of Highland Commons Parkway and U.S. Hwy. 11, which is a short distance from the intersection of U.S. 11 and Richardson Ozona Road.

Mississippi Department of Transportation and Coast Electric crews were at the intersection of Highland Commons Parkway and U.S. 11 Monday morning installing a traffic signal system.

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With the traffic signal lights being set up less than a city block from the intersection of Richardson Ozona Road and U.S. Hwy. 11, any vehicle wanting to turn onto U.S. Hwy. 11 from Richardson Ozona can expect to meet a line of cars and have to rely on other motorists to let them head south. Attempting to turn north onto U.S. Hwy. 11 from that intersection would be an even greater chore.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin and Picayune City Engineer Brooks Wallace both recommend motorists use Hayden Oaks Road to access U.S. Hwy. 11 from Richardson Ozona Road to head north or south.

“That’s probably going to be the best way for everybody coming out back there,” Lumpkin said.

MDOT District Engineer Red Stringfellow said the traffic light is expected to become active at about the same time that the hospital opens, which is set for Saturday, July 28. Wallace said the traffic light will be instrumental in guiding traffic in and out of the hospital’s new location.

There is a plan to realign Richardson Ozona Road with U.S. Hwy. 11 so it meets the new traffic light, but construction of that road is not expected to begin for at least six months. That project is still in the design phase, and there is still environmental work, right of way acquisition and project bidding to complete before construction begins, Wallace said. He expects the county to begin construction of the MDOT funded project by February or March of next year. Once it starts, the $1.5 million project will take between six and nine months to complete.

“We’re really a year, year and a half out from this thing being operational,” Wallace said.

Lumpkin said the county has already received the funds from MDOT to construct the new road, which will run behind the Picayune Item office and the adjacent Mexican Restaurant before connecting to the existing Richardson Ozona Road.

Once the new road connecting to the current Richardson Ozona Road is complete, a permanent traffic signal will be installed, which will look similar to signal light system at the intersection of Mississippi 43 North and U.S. Hwy. 11, Wallace said.