This report shows notes from various trips around southern Mississippi and eastern Louisiana during the 2006 New Year's weekend.

Notes from southern Mississippi and SE Louisiana (long)

Gone on a series of roadtrips over the last few days, with my "other half" having flown down here on Wednesday and us touring around the area. Following is a series of road-related notes from our trips:

- Construction on Phase 3 of "the Stack" (I-20 East/I-55 North/US 49 South) continues. This phase of interchange construction involves building a flyover from NB US 49 to WB I-20 and I-55, plus a set of braided ramps alongside WB I-20 between US 49 and I-55 to eliminate existing and potential weaving. Concrete has been poured for some of the new ramps, while placement of steel I-beams for the flyover appears completed and workers are working on the flyover bridge deck.

- It is possible now (though not recommended) to drive down to the beach in Waveland. Small parts of some buildings still remain even south of the railroad, though for all intents the city has been destroyed. Not all of the beach route in Bay St. Louis is open...we had to turn inland near where the railroad crosses the bay....of which CSX crews were out in force in order to restore the coastal rail line.

- Except for the 2 destroyed bridges and a small segment in Bay St. Louis, US 90 has been reopened. Most of it through Harrison County was only opened to 2 lanes, however, with all-way stop signs at major intersections, though many of those intersections have had temporary signals installed and are just waiting for power connections and for MDOT to complete repairs to the 2 non-opened lanes (generally the WB lanes, though the 2 lanes that are open switches back and forth a couple times in Pass Christian). Traffic was backed up along US 90 in the vicinity of downtown Gulfport due to this situation, though this is still an improvement over earlier when only Pass Rd was open as an E/W route through Gulfport and Biloxi.

- The Biloxi segment of US 90 is back open at 4 lanes with traffic signals operating, albeit in a fixed-cycle mode (which means left turn signals activate even if there's no left-turning traffic). Most of the replacement signals are full LED, with most of the left-turn signals being of a "VDOT style", with green and yellow left arrows but a full red lens instead of a red arrow.

- Finally got to drive what is now an 8-lane high-span across the East Pascagoula River on US was under construction when I left Mississippi in '01. A big improvement over the 4-lane drawbridge it replaced.

- While in Lucedale, I noticed that all except one of the MS 63 shield assemblies has been removed from the old route through town, which tells me that MS 63 is now "fully entrenched" on the bypass, plus a US 98 duplex for the time being until the 4-lane route north to Leakesville is completed.

- Noticed this on a trip with Billy and noticed it again this time around: west of I-55 and just north of the LA/MS line, what the DeLorme lists as Line Creek Rd is signed as MS 923 (tying into LA 1053), while what the DeLorme shows as MS 923 is instead signed as MS 571 (tying into LA 441).

- Just west of Clinton, LA, LaDOTD has reconstructed several bridges along LA 10 as well as the roadway from LA 67 to LA 963, adding paved shoulders to both. The construction zone was still active with an annoying 45 MPH speed limit, though.

- North of St. Francisville, LA, beginning just north of LA 66, US 61 is now open to 4-lanes all the way up to Natchez (some maps still show a 2-lane gap between LA 421 and the state line). This leaves the St. Francisville area (from roughly LA 964 to LA 66) as the last remaining 2-lane gap on US 61 between Baton Rouge and north of Natchez.

- Slightly disappointing...US 61 becomes a 5-lane undivided 45 MPH segment through Woodville, with a 4-way stop at MS 24. Given how low traffic counts are, though, this should not be too big of a problem.

- US 98 shields have been completely removed from WB US 65/84 between US 61 and the Mississippi River. This, combined with new "TO" banners on several of the EB-side shields and the lack of US 98 shields at the US 84/MS 33 junction near Roxie, tells me that MDOT is finally getting around to properly signing US 98 at its official endpoint at Bude.  However, there are still several US 98 shield "holdouts" between Washington and Bude, so the job isn't complete yet.

- Both BUSINESS US 61 and BUSINESS US 84 (both unofficial) are signed in downtown Natchez. This signage continues east of downtown along Franklin St towards US 61/84. The easternmost mile or so up to the US 61/US 84/MS 555 junction is state-maintained as hidden MS 930/932.

- Noticed that the Brookhaven bypass on US 84, an older 4-lane segment predating the 1987 highway program, is paved in concrete.  Further east, US 84 4-laning is completed to the Lincoln/Lawrence County line, and is underway east of there towards Monticello and Prentiss.

- Some maps show MS 43 as going from Arm, MS northwestward to US 84 just east of Monticello. Other maps show MS 43 as taking a more direct route between Arm and Silver Creek. Signage in the field supports the former, though curiously there are shields posted on the latter calling it MS 43A, even though AFAIK this is not an official route designation.

- Recent news reports suggest that the remaining span of the I-10 "Twin Spans" over Lake Pontchartrain will reopen sometime in the next couple weeks. From what I saw yesterday, it looks to be mostly finished. It also looks like it will reopen to 2 lanes, unlike the single lane that was suggested when the repair project first started. The segments with the temporary spans look narrow, though...looks like they'll have 10 or 11-ft lane widths and no shoulder. Posted signage will have trucks use the right lane on the entire span, and all traffic will "stay in lane" on the temporary segments.

- Went through St. Bernard Parish enroute to the French Quarter.  St. Bernard has a dusk-til-dawn curfew, though during the daytime they're allowing people in without a checkpoint. The area looks BAD.  Roadgeek-wise, there was only one operating traffic signal that we saw, at the LA 39/LA 47 junction. Taking Claiborne Ave (LA 39) through the 9th Ward didn't look any better. Wasn't until we got to the French Quarter that things looked more or less back to normal.

- Took US 90 west from the Westbank out to Lafayette. Exit numbers are now posted at the interchanges between Raceland and the east edge of Morgan City, using US 90's mileage (from the 180s to IIRC the low 200s). Several interchange projects between Morgan City and Lafayette, which were underway my last time along here in late 1999, have been completed.

- Still several traffic signals and private access points along US 90 between Berwick and LA 182 west of Patterson, contrary to some maps that show this as a freeway. This will take some work in order to upgrade it for "I-49 South".

- The freeway section those maps show near Franklin *IS* valid, though.  This freeway section (which is posted at 70 MPH) runs from east of LA 317 west to LA 318 (a traffic signal). The New Iberia freeway segment remains between LA 83 and LA 14, though a new interchange was built just to the southeast at PR 211 (complete with a blue pentagon parish route shield).

- Between New Iberia and Lafayette, except for the occasional interchange (LA 88, LA 182), this segment is non-controlled access and will also be difficult to upgrade to Interstate, though it pales compared to the through-town route proposed for "I-49 South". I don't see how they're gonna get that one built without taking out a lot of homes and businesses.

- Kind of odd for what is nominally a rural area, but LA 431 has several traffic signals between LA 931 and US 61.

- The LA 70 crossing of the Mississippi River is 4-lanes, with the 4-lane extending southwest to LA 3089, but north of the river is only 2 lanes. This segment, based on the traffic I saw yesterday, could stand to see widening to 4 lanes plus have a more direct connection built to I-10. South of the river, there's a really funky "at-grade interchange" at LA 3089 which IMO should be rebuilt to a more traditional grade-seperated interchange.

- LA 3127 is an interesting route that stretches between LA 70 and I-310. It's mostly a high-quality 2-lane highway on a 4-lane ROW, including some grading (but no paving or bridges) for 4 lanes along its entire length. Heading east, it does widen out to 4 lanes near LA 3141 at Killona, and is 4-lanes from here to I-310.

- Went through the "Volleyball Roundabout" at US 61 and Causeway Blvd in Metairie. This interchange (officially called a 3-level diamond by some DOT's...Kurumi is the one who coined the "volleyball" term) differs from a normal 3-level diamond in that instead of the usual intersections where the ramps intersect, there is instead a large-diameter roundabout to funnel traffic between the ramps.

- Don't recall this before, but the Pontchartrain Causeway's speed limit is now 65 MPH.

While at MDOT waiting for Meaghan's plane to come in, I found interesting information pertaining to 2 projects, one currently underway and one proposed.

The underway project is a MS 42 bypass of Petal, on new location, which will tie into the I-59 interchange at Exit 69. This bypass will included a folded-diamond at US 11. More interestingly, the signage plans for the project suggest that old MS 42 through Petal will be renumbered as MS 142. This will mark the first time I know of where the MS 1xx route-numbering convention will be used on a bypassed state route. Up until now the only MS 1xx's that have existed were former US route alignments (i.e. MS 145, MS 178, MS 184, etc etc), not state route alignments.

The proposed project, which has shown up on the Jackson MPO's long-range plans for several years now, is called the "Airport Parkway". This project, of which MDOT has preliminary plans for, proposes a freeway/parkway style facility connecting Jackson's downtown area to the Jackson Int'l Airport. A spur off of this, called the "West Rankin Pkwy" would connect to MS 25 north of the airport. The project would feature a loop road east of I-55 connecting Fortification St to Pearl St, with the Parkway itself beginning as an extension of High St. There would be ramps to/from the east between the loop road and the Parkway, a diamond interchange at MS 468, and a folded-diamond at Magnum Dr, where the parkway would split into the airport and "West Rankin" segments. The West Rankin Parkway would have access to/from the west at MS 475, then tie into MS 25 to/from the east. As of now, the interchange configuration where the Airport Pkwy would meet MS 475, Old Brandon Rd, and the airport entrance has not been determined yet....this part of the project would be a "Phase 2", with West Rankin being the first phase. The only freeway-to-freeway style ramp between I-55 and the Parkway would be from NB I-55 to the parkway, utilizing the loop road from Pearl St. No telling when funding will be available to actually build this project, though.

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