This report is from Day 2 of my return trip back east on June 29, 2004, during my 2004 summer vacation.

Froggie's 2004 Summer Vacation, Return Day 2:  Roadtrippin Suthern Style

After a night in Perryville, MO, we headed back out and south on I-55, eventually going a bit further south than we originally intended...

- First roadgeek stop for the day was Cape Girardeau. Last time I was here, the new bridge across the Mississippi was still under construction. First thing of note was the BGS on SB I-55 for Exit 95 (MO 74 East). The 1-mile advance BGS had an IL 146 shield, while the BGS at the exit had "Illinois Route 146" in text.

- Prior to bridge completion, MO 74 was built (or rebuilt?) as a 4-lane divided expressway between I-55 and the new bridge, and is quite nice. Done in private driveways...45 MPH speed limit. Besides the ramps at I-55 (no signals), there are 6 signalized intersections and one unsignalized T-intersection.

- The bridge itself is quite impressive. Cable-stayed, with the cables running on each side of the bridge, rather than down the center. The old bridge still exists just to the north, but with no road access on the Illinois side (though it was being used as some sort of staging area).

- Traveled down IL 146 for a little ways before U-turning. IL 146 has been upgraded to a 5-lane undivided through East Cape Girardeau. Did not go far enough east to see if the upgrade extended all the way to IL 3, though.

- Back through Cape Girardeau, then back south on I-55. Next stop was I-57 and a brief run east (to Exit 4) to clinch Mississippi County. Originally wanted to continue to the Illinois side, but had to forgo that. I'm only missing the MO Route "B" to IL-3 section of I-57 now. Back westbound towards I-55, there is a "I-57 ENDS 3/4 MILE" BGS (but no actual END sign that I could see), a "FREEWAY ENDS" sign at the I-55 overpass, and a large "I-55 SOUTH, Memphis" BGS at the loop gore (Exit 1A). Did a quick U-turn on US 60 and continued south on I-55.

- Next stop...Hayti. The SB BGS at Exit 19 are new, in coordination with US 412 now bypassing Hayti to the southwest. What's interesting is that they put the arrow right underneath the MO 84 shield, and then put the control cities below the arrow. They also put the Exit 17 BGS to the LEFT of the I-55 reassurance sign.

- Stopped for gas at the MO 84 exit. Noted signs that warned MO 84 was closed west of Hayti...more on that later. Also spotted an old 1940s-era police cruiser in the gas station parking lot. Heading back to I-55, the traffic signals for MO 84 at the SB ramps are horizontal and mounted right below BGS at the intersection.

- Checked out the new US 412 bypass of Hayti. It's expressway, rather than freeway, but was fully done in concrete...even the shoulders. Instead of "DETOUR MO 84" shields, there were "DETOUR US 84" shields...each and every one of them was US instead of MO. Towards the west end of the bypass, the reason for the MO 84 detour was clear. US 412 traffic was moved to the eastbound lanes in the vicinity where it meets MO 84/Old US 412, and the old road is being completely redone where it joins the new 4-lane. Went a little ways west before U-turning, noting that the stretch of US 412 west of Hayti was also redone in full concrete, and with a 65 MPH speed limit. Did a U-turn and headed back to I-55 and south.

- Signs at the AR state line warned of two construction zones along I-55, one between MP 45 and MP 35, and the other being the reconstruction in West Memphis.  No lane closures that I could see in the 45-35 zone, though there were some cones along the side of the roadway near the AR 14 exit. At the US 63 interchange, there were signs of construction to the north on US 63. STILL no indications that US 63 follows I-55 south, then I-40 west.

- First time ever for me: crossing the I-40 Hernando DeSoto Bridge without there being a lane closure.

- After snapping a shot of the Memphis Pyramid, we headed south on Riverside to pick up I-55 (withouth going through the 40/240 Midtown construction mess).  This gave us a good view of the 3 bridges side-by-side (I-55 and the two RR bridges), though it conveniently started to rain at about that time. My streak of getting rained on whenever I want to take photos in Memphis continues...

- Took I-55 around (and through the single-lane ramp to stay on SB 55 at the I-240 interchange...figured they'd have upgraded that by now), then immediately exited at US 51 so that Meaghan could at least see Graceland (though thankfully, we didn't stop).

- After the brief Graceland view, got back on SB I-55 at Brooks Rd.  The recent widening through south Memphis is nice....8 lanes where there used to be 4, though the inside lane is HOV-2 during peak hours (4-6pm M-F for SB).  As the Mississippi portion hasn't been completed yet, the inside HOV lane ends just before the state line, while the outside lane becomes Exit Only at State Line Rd.

- Speaking of Mississippi's portion, MDOT has begun construction on the first phase of their I-55 widening: from the state line down to MS 302. Very noticeable clearing and grading has begun on the southbound side between State Line Rd and MS 302. From what I've been told, this stretch will be 10 lanes...8 through lanes, with a pair of auxiliary lanes between the MS 302 and State Line Rd interchanges. Not sure if this has changed yet...

- Continued south on I-55. A few notes on the MS 304 interchange construction:  paving has begun on the I-55 C/D roads, though not yet on the ramps and loops.  The MS 304 bridges over I-55 are still not finished...beams have been placed over the C/D roads, but no beams yet over I-55, and not even center piers in the I-55 median yet. The old Green T Rd overpass over I-55 is still in place, though traffic is using the new replacement overpass just to the south. Just north of the interchange itself, northbound traffic was using a portion of the C/D road due to a project replacing the northbound mainline bridge over Hurricane Creek. There's still a long ways to go at this least 12-15 months, I'd estimate...

- Further south, in Senatobia, noticed that MS 4 has indeed been relocated to the "Bypass Rd" around the north end of the city, though this seems to be a temporary measure. South of town, construction is well underway on a new interchange on I-55 at what will be a new MS 4 bypass. Too early to tell what the interchange configuration will be, though.

- Took I-55 down to Batesville, where we opted east on MS 6 for a spell. At a few locations between I-55 and Oxford, MDOT has installed BGS for the side-roads with FHWA-standard font and typeface, rather than the old all-capital-letter and narrow typeface that MDOT was known for. They even replaced the BGS at the MS 315 exit, but the BGS *STILL* have the MS 315 shields tacked on above the BGS itself.

- The lone traffic signal in West Oxford has always been a pain...and still is a pain. They really need to accelerate the proposal to build an interchange here.  Given development to the west, some access management along MS 6 west of this location would be useful too.

- Stayed on MS 6 around Oxford. The EB off-ramp to MS 7 wasn't too terribly backed up (it can get quite backed up at times). Recently came upon some notes that suggested the future 4-laning of MS 7 between MS 6 and MS 9W might include improvements at the MS 6/MS 7 interchange. It should be upgraded to a full cloverleaf or at least a 6-ramp par-clo IMO. Perhaps Chris Lawrence could investigate further...:o)

- Storms were approaching as we passed around Pontotoc on MS 76. A set of "SLOW TO 45" signs, complete with flashing yellow light, exist at the MS 345 intersection. At MS 9, construction on the MS 9 interchange and extension to the east are well underway. MS 9 is using the new overpass, and MS 76 traffic is now using the ramps to/from the west.

- The rain really hit as we got on MS 9 and stayed with us all the way up to US 78. Very jarring experience given traffic along the route, and very slow too.

- Things improved slowly as we got on US 78 and headed east, though photo-taking opportunity was still for naught. Noted the new BGS and exit numbers along US they need to work on the shoulders, and some pavement rehab between Sherman and Belden would be nice too.

- Took US 45 south around Tupelo. The old wire-hung BGS on SB US 45 at MS 178 are still in place...did not get a look at the NB BGS. Some newer BGS at the MS 6 exit, but as with MS 315, the MS 6 shield is still outside the BGS.

- The rain finally let up as we hit ALT US 45, albeit briefly. It came back in full force near Egypt, and we saw a nasty accident in the northbound lanes north of MS 8...a semi had hit a pickup. The semi was in the median, while the pickup was sitting in the middle of the northbound lanes and pretty crumpled up. NB traffic, obviously, wasn't going anywhere and was starting to backup, though not very far yet, as the accident had obviously happened just before we got emergency personnel were on scene yet.  Dunno what the outcome was, and this unfortunately was not the only accident we'd see this day.

- Something I don't remember seeing before: MS 25 is now signed along with ALT US 45 on their duplex from north of West Point down to US 82. There were never MS 25 shields along here before. Also, traffic signals along ALT 45 in downtown West Point have been replaced with mast-arm signals. A project is underway in southern West Point to widen ALT 45 from a 4-lane to a's currently striped as a 3-lane as construction progresses.

- At and just south of MS 182: instead of ALT US 45 shields, there were US 45A shields.

- MS 788 is signed going into Artesia...meanwhile, just south of Artesia, ALT 45 goes back to 2 lanes. The parallel lanes (and the Crawford bypass) have been graded, but the paving contract apparently hasn't been let yet.

- Something new since 2001: MS 145 is now signed through Macon...has apparently been repaved too (couldn't tell for sure...I stayed on US 45)...the old pavement south of town used to be terrible. Further south, MDOT has installed rumble strips on US 45 between Scooba and Porterville.

- Took my run between Lauderdale and NAS Meridian, where I was stationed between 1998 and 2001, to show Meaghan my old stomping grounds. Except for a repaving project on US 45 in the vicinity of Lauderdale, things haven't changed. Spent some time talking to someone I know on base before we continued south.

- Heading out of the NAS Meridian gate, noticed MS 854 shields.  Apparently, MDOT has finally taken over Stennis Dr between the NAS gate and MS 39, though I didn't go all the way to MS 39. Left MS 854/Stennis Dr early to discover something new: Lauderdale County has finally begun a road project that they were talking about starting 5 years ago...a new, more-direct connector between NAS Meridian and US 45. The project starts at MS 854 about 1/2 mile from the gate and follows Fred Clayton Rd for a little over a mile. The road was closed to through traffic, but apparently is open for local traffic. Lots of tree removal and clearing to the south side of Fred Clayton Rd for this stretch. The new route diverges about 1.5 miles from MS 854, and will generally follow a new routing from that point to US 45 at Campground Rd/Minnow Bucket Rd, utilizing the existing Campground Rd overpass over the KCS RR. Note to Robert Lee: could you keep track of this project for me?

- Got back on US 45 for the run into Meridian. Noticed first that the Lauderdale repaving project extends down to Cotton Gin Rd, and includes rumble strips but not full shoulder paving. Second thing I noticed is that all of the trees that used to be in the median along this stretch have been removed.  Probably a safety thing...some of those trees were fairly close to the roadway, though it also wound up taking out a couple of the Mississippi Highway Patrol's hiding spots...:o) The Marion city limits also begin a lot farther north than they used to...looks like Marion did some annexing up US 45 for a couple miles.

- Rather than deal with Dale Dr through Marion, I stayed on US 45, which is a freeway bypass around Marion and Meridian, and took I-20/59 into town to view the mess created by the Super WalMart. Not sure how to describe it, except that it's a mess.

- Would've liked to spend more time tooling around Meridian, but it was after dinner at this point and we had a goal of wanting to get to Chattanooga before we stopped for the night, so we hopped on I-20/59 and sped northeast.  From just east of MS 19/39 to the state line, the pavement rehab project that was underway 3 years ago is well finished. The old concrete between MS 19/39 and Russell was rehabilitated, with shotcrete placed underneath in spots to get rid of the bumps/heaves, and an asphalt overlay laid on top. East of Russell, the old asphalt was milled and new asphalt overlaid. Rumble strips were added, and all the trees in the median between Russell and Kewannee were removed.

- Got hit by another good thunderstorm just as we crossed into Alabama...rain was so heavy that no one (not even the trucks or speedos) was going faster than 40 for a good 5 miles. From this point on, it would be on-and-off rain until well after dark.

- Repaving project on I-20/59 between the Tenn-Tomm and the Boligee exit (Exit 32)...complete with annoying 50 MPH speed limit that nobody was following (it wasn't raining at the time).

- Construction on the I-20/59 6-laning between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham began in earnest east of Tuscaloosa, somewhere near Exit 86. Traffic on the eastbound side was shifted to the right, with trucks directed to use the left lane. This kept up for over 10 miles, before somewhere near Caffee Jct (Exit 97) things opened up...the project wasn't completed yet, but the 6 lanes were open from somewhere near here all the way to I-459, which made for much easier going.

- Stayed on I-20/59 through Birmingham. Another heavy rainstorm going through this time it was dark, which made it doubly tense. Some sort of construction project near Malfunction Junction (I-20/59/65). The I-20/59 viaduct near downtown really needs to get replaced and improved. Northeast of downtown, I-20/59 has been repaved since my last time through.

- Stayed on I-59 up to I-24, then took I-24 into and through Chattanooga.  Things were relatively uneventful until we got to Lookout Mountain, where the second nasty accident of the day had occurred. The accident occurred in the westbound lanes, in the middle of the long curve near the base of Lookout Mountain. From what we saw, the accident involved a semi, a van, and at least one other vehicle. The van was very crunched and sitting in the middle of the travel lanes. Emergency personnel were on scene, and they were letting *NOBODY* through. Traffic was completely stopped from here all the way back to the curve at the base of Missionary Ridge...a good 5 miles. As we passed by downtown, we saw a lot of vehicles just turned off, with people walking around on the inside shoulder. The next morning on the local news, we learned that there was a fatality with the accident, and that at one point traffic backed up all the way to I-75.

- Took I-24 to I-75, then north a few miles up to the TN 317 exit.  The reconstruction through the TN 153/Hamilton Place area is nice...plenty wide.  Further north, construction is underway at the TN 317 interchange and north.  Even though portable VMS were being used to direct people to the I-75 ramps and such, it was very difficult and confusing to navigate the interchange at night.  Too many turns. We stopped at one of the area hotels for the night.

Next up: Appalachian-bound.

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