This isn't a roadtrip report per se, but was commentary on various then-recent articles on Mississippi highways. This was posted on May 15, 2006.

Mississippi road news (long)

A selection of recent articles on various projects within Mississippi

- A recent Clarion Ledger (Jackson, MS) article on post-Katrina traffic problems along the Gulf Coast. Not a whole lot new in this article:

- Several items of note from a DeSoto Times article. First, the current widening project on I-55 between MS 302/Goodman Rd and the MS/TN line is expecting a July, 2007 completion. The project, from the design plans I saw, is widening I-55 from 4 lanes to 8 lanes, with a 5th auxiliary lane in each direction between the MS 302 and State Line Rd interchanges.

Second, the article notes the breakdown of future I-55 widening into three more phases, with the next phase from MS 302 to Church Rd, the third phase from Church Rd to MS 304/Future I-69, and the last phase from 304/I-69 to the Hernando exit. Of note within this breakdown is two new interchanges proposed along I-55: at an extended Nail Rd and at Star Landing Rd. My I-55 exit list has been updated to reflect these proposed interchanges.

The last item of note from the article is about HOV lanes. Up until now it was assumed that HOV lanes would be designated as part of the I-55 widening. The article note that "the original plans did not call for High Occupancy Vehicle lanes", but notes the possibility that they could still be designated if it's determined that they're needed.

- An article from the SunHerald (Gulf Coast) last Friday noting that MDOT thinks the "Port of Gulfport" connector is in peril. The connector is planned as a freeway-grade facility connecting I-10 near Canal Rd to the Port of Gulfport. Officially designated as MS 601, the connector has been labeled as "I-310" both in the SunHerald and in the post-Katrina rebuilding proposals put out by the state Governor's committee on rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Katrina. This article is no exception in labeling the connector as "I-310". (Yes, Kurumi has been notified...)

The article centers on a resolution by the Port Authority that opposes the connector plan on the grounds that it will take away Port land that they want to use for rebuilding. The Gulfport downtown association and Gulfport's mayor are also opposed to plans for the connector. The main gist of the opposition is the segment south of 28th St, which according to the plans will be elevated right into the port. The port opposes it because of the land issue, while the city and downtown oppose it because it would be elevated and they don't want to see a repeat of what happened along the I-110 corridor in Biloxi when it was built.

About a week and a half ago, MDOT decided to split the project into two phases, starting with the section from I-10 to 28th St and postponing the 28th St-to-Port segment pending further study. This pleased the city, downtown, and the Port, though MDOT still thinks the Port needs to rescind their opposition resolution before they can proceed.

- Another article from the SunHerald last week on a similar vein to the Clarion-Ledger article cited above. As the SunHerald pulls most of their articles from the main website after a week, I'll reprint it (in italics) below:

All roads lead to ill will
Transit battles the toughest
Transportation concerns in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have set off a string of confrontations between locals and MDOT.

Some of the Governor's Commission recommendations were direct challenges to the way the state transportation agency has operated. For instance, efforts by Ocean Springs to tame MDOT's bigger-is-better mantra for the U.S. 90 bridge over Biloxi Bay stewed for months.

The city gave approval for a bridge with six lanes of traffic, four breakdown or emergency lanes and a bike/pedestrian lane. Then it took it away, then gave it back again when it became clear there would be no downsizing.

A later hiccup with the lack of a drawbridge resulted in rebidding the project for a 95-foot bridge, 10 feet higher to help appease protests from Harrison County development officials, the shipbuilding industry along Bayou Bernard Industrial Seaway and the governor's office. A contract is to be awarded early next month.

The commission didn't want to put itself in the middle of an obvious political struggle, but the Mississippi Renewal Forum had argued for a four-lane bridge. Instead, the commission recommended returning U.S. 90 to a four-lane, pedestrian-friendly boulevard.

It also recommended the acquisition of the CSX Transportation rail bed for conversion into an east-west thoroughfare. The funding for the acquisition stands as a lightning rod in an emergency spending package that's been approved by the Senate but still needs House approval. If passed, the bill could be President Bush's first veto.

The commission's vision of a multimodal east-west corridor isn't being talked about in the same terms anymore, either. Instead, it's likely to wind up as a new U.S. 90 that can be rerouted off the beach.

"We would just love it if everybody would say instead of a major highway, this needs to be rapid transit, this needs to be light-rail," said Susan Henderson, a New Urbanist involved in the Renewal Forum and later in recovery planning. "It does need to connect New Orleans to Mobile."

Gulfport won a concession from MDOT in its plans for a Canal Road connector. Also referred to as Interstate 310, it would connect the state port of Gulfport to I-10 just east of the current Canal Road exit.

MDOT had federal approval to build an elevated connector all the way to the port, but with the Port Authority, city officials and business leaders armed with new ammunition from the commission, it earned a reprieve. The agency has agreed to do the project in two stages, postponing design south of 28th Street so it can weigh changes at the port and with CSX.

MDOT has also been active with development of two long-range transportation plans. It's worked with Coast Transit Authority and the feds to develop a public transportation vision, and with Gulf Regional Planning Commission for a regional multimodal plan."


- From the Pascagoula Press, a tentative agreement has been reached between MDOT, Jackson County, Ocean Springs, and the Singing River Hospital System on reconstructing the intersection at US 90 and Ocean Springs Rd on the east side of Ocean Springs. The intersection reconstruction is being pushed due to traffic issues and a high accident rate. The hospital system is involved since land that is part of Ocean Springs Hospital would be impacted.

- From the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo), an article on the ongoing planning process for what the article cites is a future overpass at US 45 and Euclatubba Rd north of Saltillo. This is somewhat confusing, as the article calls it a future overpass, yet MDOT's STIP (back when the project was still funded) called the project an interchange project. I sent an E-mail to the author asking for more clarification.

- Several articles relating to the approval 2 weeks ago of an extension of Tupelo's "Major Thoroughfare Program". The upcoming "Phase 4" represents the 4th time voters have approved a 10-mil property tax levy to fund major street improvements within the city of Tupelo. Amongst the projects planned for the next 5 years are a connector road between Coley Rd at MS 178 and Barnes Crossing Rd, widening of MS 145 in southern Tupelo, and a future interchange at Thomas St and the soon-to-be-new MS 6/Corridor V (Thomas St is about 2 miles west of US 45).

- (Eric Smith take note) MDOT officially opened up MS 25 to 4 lanes between Louisville and the Winston/Oktibbeha County line on May 10th.  This completes the 4-laning of MS 25 between Louisville and Starkville.  The MDOT press release notes that the last section of 4-laning on MS 25, about 12 miles between MS 19 and Lousville, should be opened "within the next six weeks". That segment will complete 4-laning of MS 25 between Jackson and Starkville.

- Lastly, on Tuesday the 16th (tomorrow), MDOT will open about 7.5 miles of MS 57 to 4-lane traffic south of State Line.

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(C) 2007, Adam Froehlig