This report is from a public meeting on the proposed MS 601 freeway between I-10 near Gulfport, MS and US 49 near Wiggins, MS, on March 14, 2006.

MDOT public meetings

Two public meetings in the area today, one for the proposed Bay St. Louis replacement bridge on US 90, the other a study to extend the proposed MS 601 freeway north of I-10. Since I already have a good idea what the new Bay St. Louis bridge will be, I concentrated on the latter meeting, and never did make it to the bridge meeting.

Currently, MS 601 is the route number for the proposed "Port of Gulfport" connector, which would provide a freeway-grade facility connecting the Port of Gulfport to I-10 just east of Canal Rd (Exit 31). The interchange at I-10 is proposed as a full 4-level stack interchange (which would be the first in Mississippi), with the public meeting today being for the study to extend this route north of I-10.  The study is currently in the scoping phase.

The study extends from I-10 to the Stone/Forrest County line, with the alignment options basically forming three main alternatives. All build alternatives would provide for a full freeway-grade facility between these two locations. There are three basic alternatives, with the main difference between the three being in where the new alignment alternative joins US 49. All three alternatives would upgrade existing US 49 to freeway from the junction point north to the Stone/Forrest County line. All of the new alignment options run parallel to and roughly 2-3 miles west of existing US 49.

Alternative 1 has the least amount of new alignment, rejoining existing US 49 in the Wortham vicnity (about 3 miles north of MS 53). A sub-alternate (Alternative 1A) would rejoing existing US 49 about a mile further north. With all the various alignment options being considered between I-10 and MS 53, Alternative 1 has a total of 7 alignment options.

Alternative 2 has the new alignment rejoining existing US 49 about 1.5 miles south of Saucier. This alternative has a total of 5 alignment options.

Alternative 3 has the most amount of new alignment, with the new alignment not rejoining US 49 until the south end of the Wiggins bypass. This alternative has a sub-alternate (Alt. 3A) between Howison and Perkinston, basically running about a mile closer to US 49 than the main alternative. Because of that sub-alternative, this alternative has a total of 10 alignment options.

So there are a total of 22 alignment alternatives within the three primary alternatives.

Besides the already-proposed stack at I-10 and the existing interchanges at MS 26 and Future MS 67, interchanges are proposed at the following locations: MS 53, Saucier, McHenry, Perkinston, South Wiggins, and Bond (near the Stone/Forrest County line). Alternatives 1 and 2 would also have an additional interchange wherever the new alignment meets existing US 49.

I spoke with an engineer from MDOT's District 6 (which covers this area). He said that, in the event the freeway does get built, US 49 would likely remain on its existing route and the new-alignment part of the freeway would receive the designation already proposed: MS 601.

Had a nice long conversation with the same engineer about other projects and events. One item of interest is that he mentioned two area projects that were all set to go for ROW acquisition and construction when the higher-ups within MDOT stopped both projects.  One was a proposed bypass of Kiln for MS 43. The other was a proposed widening of US 11 from I-59 at Nicholson north through Picayune to the Hide-A-Way Lake turnoff (about a mile north of MS 43). The latter project, from chatting with locals in my new "town of residence", has been on the boards for the better part of 20 years, while the Kiln bypass project has been around for over 10 years. With the way traffic has mushroomed since Katrina (with no signs of going away), both projects are desperately needed.

He also mentioned survey work he had done a few years ago for a possible realignment of MS 43 east of Picayune. He said MS 43 would have been realigned starting near the Pearl River/Hancock County line to run northwest to tie directly into "MS 43 North" at I-59's Exit 6.  As with the other two projects, this one was put on hold, although he did mention a timeline for doing something with MS 43 east of Picayune around 2010.

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