This report is from Day 1 of my 2006 summer vacation, on August 10, 2006.  The primary goal of taking 3 weeks of vacation was my annual sojourn back to Minnesota (my home state), with the additional goal of redoing the Minnesota road research that I lost to Hurricane Katrina the previous year.

Froggie's 2006 Summer Vacation Day Day 1: Off With A Bang...

Literally....I ran into several thunderstorms during the course of the day.

- Started by heading south to Slidell, then west. I-12 as usual was traffic-thick. The talk of tolls would almost be nice to get the road 6-laned, but LaDOTD would have to 4-lane US 190 to handle the toll-avoiders. 190 is already congested in several locations as it is...tolls on I-12 would make it MUCH worse without major improvement.

- The WB I-12 to NB I-55 ramp is nominally a single lane, but LaDOTD has built a wide enough shoulder on it so that it can be used as a 2-lane ramp in the event of a hurricane evacuation. During such a time. All westbound I-12 traffic at Hammond will get shunted onto northbound I-55. Traffic on northbound I-55 from the south gets moved over to the contraflow lanes. I-55 contraflow will extend either up to the state line or, if Louisiana requests and Mississippi approves, up to around Exit 31 between McComb and Brookhaven.

- Most of I-55 between I-12 and the Louisiana/Mississippi line is still the original concrete. This concrete is in fairly poor condition in many places. LaDOTD has done a fairly decent job of rehabbing pavement on segments of I-10, I-12, I-20, and even I-59. I guess I-55 doesn't fit the same priority.

- Several segments of concrete remain on I-55 in Mississippi, including around and south of McComb, and through most of Holmes County. This concrete pavement is in decidedly better condition than the Louisiana stretch.

- For a change of pace, and since I've already been on I-55 through this stretch, I took US 51 between Summit and Crystal Springs. Highlights included a 5-lane segment from MS 184 to the north edge of Brookhaven, a 4-way stop in Wesson, and an odd channelization in downtown Hazelhurst.

- Checked out progress on Phase 3 of "The Stack" (I-20/I-55/US 49 interchange). Traffic from WB I-20 to NB I-55 and from Flowood to WB I-20 are now using the C/D road and braided ramps, albeit with lane restrictions. Progress continues both on widening US 49 south to Old Hwy 49, and on the future flyover from NB US 49 to WB I-20 and I-55. The deck appears to be complete on the flyover...I saw a work truck driving on it as I passed by. The side barriers on the flyover are still being worked on, and there is still a bit of work left to do on the US 49 approach to the flyover. Unfortunately, it was raining hard enough to prevent me from taking photos.

- MDOT is widening US 51 through Ridgeland and Madison to 4-5 lanes. This area has become heavily suburbanized over the last 15 years.

- US 82 has a folded-diamond interchange at US 51 in Winona.

- An interchange that I first spotted about 5 years ago but still hasn't shown up on most maps: Exit 199 on I-55. This is about 7 miles south of Grenada, and from the south is signed as "South Grenada/Nat G. Troutt Rd". The interchange ties into Griffis Rd to the west and a relatively new state-aid road (National Guard-Troutt Rd) that crosses US 51 in Elliot and ties directly into the road that goes to Camp McCain (a National Guard facility).

- Something else that maps tend to miss: MS 15 has a diamond interchange at MS 8 outside Houston. The immediate vicinity of this interchange is the only location on the Houston Bypass where MS 15 goes to 4 lanes. On the rest of the bypass, MS 15 is a 2-lane expressway.

- Saw a nasty car fire on MS 15 just south of Pontotoc.

- Checked out the recently opened MS 76/"Corridor V" segment completing the bypass around Pontotoc. From along MS 9 and east of there, the road is signed as US 278/MS 6. It's also an expressway...not a freeway, though in addition to the MS 15 and MS 9 interchanges there is also an interchange at Longview Rd (and old MS 6 to the west).

- Of note is the east end of the completed segment, where the 4-lane ends at a half-directional interchange with ramps to/from the west that connect back to existing MS 6 towards Tupelo. The corresponding east side ramps will in effect be a half-diamond at MS 342 and are under construction with the next segment to the east. The oddest part of this is that there is already exit guide signage for the eastbound exit (even though everyone has to exit there today), which calls it "US 278 EAST, Tupelo". In classic Mississippi fashion, a MS 6 shield was added on top of the guide sign.

- Trailblazer shields at the Natchez Trace/MS 145 interchange still have the "BUSINESS" banner over the MS 145 shields.

- As weather allowed (with several scattered showers/t-storms in the area), I took several route termini photos in northeastern Mississippi, mostly in Prentiss County.

- Didn't notice this before, but the south approach to the Pickwick Dam bridge (on TN 128) has U.S. flags flying from every lamppole.

- US 64 between Savannah, TN and Waynesboro, TN has some worn out pavement plus something I haven't seen very much in Tennessee: gravel shoulders. TDOT was also very generous with truck climbing lanes, with almost all of the steep and even some moderate grades having a climbing lane. A roughly 3 mile segment from just east of Olive Hill to the Hardin/Wayne County line is being widened to 4-lanes divided...this was the only widening project I noticed between Savannah and Waynesboro.

- Speaking of Waynesboro, the US 64 bypass of Waynesboro is 4-lanes, and has a "one-quadrant interchange" at TN 13...defined as the two routes being grade separated (US 64 has a long bridge over TN 13), with an at-grade access road connecting the two. Part of the reason for this is a moderate sized hill in the northwest quadrant of the junction, which was partially blasted as it was just to put US 64 in.

- The TN 13/TN 48 combo between Waynesboro and Hohenwald would be a neat drive if it wasn't for both slow traffic and the lack of passing opportunity. Those who like sharp turns in 4th gear will probably find themselves stuck in 2nd gear behind someone going 40-45 in a 55.

- Adding to the list of sign goofs in Tennessee: the trailblazer sign for TN 48 from northbound TN 13 is a primary shield, while the first reassurance shield is a secondary shield. Also, on northbound TN 48 on the south side of Hohenwald, an arrow suggests that one turns right onto TN 20 East in order to follow NB TN 48 and TN 99, when in fact one goes straight to stay on NB TN 48.

- Finished the first evening trying to get to Billy Riddle's place through a severe thunderstorm. Billy was at the National roadgeek meet, so I camped out with Seth for the night.

With the day's travels, I was able to finally "clinch" I-55 in Louisiana and Mississippi. Still have a small segment left in the Chicago 'burbs to clinch the entire route.

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(C) 2007, Adam Froehlig