Widening Highway 11 should be top priority

Published 7:00 am Saturday, February 11, 2017

While the Mississippi Department of Transportation promised to fund the reconstruction of several curves along Highway 43 North, it has prolonged the widening of Highway 11 for another year.

While department representatives said the expansion will take place in 2018, that reality is dependent on funding.

With over a dozen unfunded MDOT projects in Pearl River County, we seem to have more of a need for infrastructure developments than surrounding counties in the southern district.

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The widening of Highway 11 would not only increase traffic movement along the busy road, but it would also increase safety. Part of the project would entail upgrading the bridge that crosses the East Hobolochitto Creek to allow for safer pedestrian access.

Previous coverage in 2015 stated MDOT would replace the bridge and add sidewalks for safe pedestrian passage along the highway.

This is a severely needed improvement for that narrow crossing. Every day pedestrians and bicyclists

cross the bridge, forcing themselves onto its outermost perimeter to avoid getting struck by a passing vehicle.

And there’s no alternative path, unless you carry a canoe and cross the creek that way.

While the MDOT has stated the improvements to Highway 43 are to ensure safety along sharp curves, it’s unclear why that project is a higher priority than the decades old plan to revamp Highway 11.

The opening of Highland Parkway will alleviate some traffic along Highway 11. However, as businesses start to move into the developable space, the traffic is only going to increase around north Picayune. With more traffic, and the same amount of road space, the rate of accidents could rise, without a shoulder or median to divert traffic.

If the city continues to grow like it has—and plans to—the need for a wider highway will only grow. Before this becomes even more of a problem, MDOT needs to figure out a way to work with the city, the state and potentially the federal government to solve this weighty problem.