This report was the last roadtrip report for my 2006 summer vacation, on August 29, 2006.

Froggie's 2006 Summer Vacation Day 20:  The last leg...and MDOT does the impossible...

This last trip day of vacation finally brought us back to Mississippi, where we found that MDOT had performed a rarity (for them)...

- After noting the end of US 271 in Fort Smith (albeit with no end signage), we headed southeast along US 71. US 71 is 4-lanes divided to a point a few miles south of AR 10. Approaching the end of the 4-lane, instead of using a "left lane ends" or "4-lane ends" sign on the 1-mile approach, AHTD used a "TWO WAY TRAFFIC" sign.

- We stayed on US 71 southeast to AR 23, noting a good bit of traffic and several log trucks. I-49 won't come a moment too soon.

- Northeast on AR 23, then east on AR 10 to Ola. Several scenic views, but limited passing opportunity made for some slow going.

- Even slower going was AR 7 from Ola south to Hot Springs. Although traffic was fairly light, there were numerous sharp curves and switchbacks along AR 7, especially in the area within Ouachita National Forest. I don't expect AHTD to straighten the roadway, but some climbing and passing lanes would have been nice.

- Traffic picked up a bit on AR 7 once one got past Jessieville. Hot Springs Village looked like half-resort, half-retirement-community and added a lot of traffic.

- As noted previously by Jeremy Lance, what used to be BUSINESS US 70 in northeastern Hot Springs is now SPUR AR 7. What used to be mainline US 70 through the middle of the city is now the BUSINESS route, and mainline US 70 has been rerouted to the bypass.

- AR 7 is generally 5 lanes undivided from just north of BUSINESS US 70 (on the south side of downtown Hot Springs) south to the south side of Lake Hamilton (the lake, not the town).

- There's one good long hill-climbing lane on AR 7 between Lake Hamilton and Bismark, and another shorter one between De Gray Lake and I-30. Aside from those, passing opportunities are generally limited between Lake Hamilton and Arkadelphia. Traffic doesn't really warrant a full 4-lanes, but definitely justifies additional passing lanes.

- A brand new traffic signal was installed at the AR 7/AR 84 junction in Bismark. There were still some indications of the former stop-sign control on AR 84.

- Continued along AR 7 through Arkadelphia, where at one point there was a 4-way multiplex of US 67/AR 7/AR 8/AR 51.

- Some maps show AR 7 as a major through route between Arkadelphia and Camden, but the road itself was horrible and looks like it's barely been touched since the 50s. Narrow lanes, non-existant shoulders, and several curves and even intersection turns made for some slow-going.

- For being a town of over 13,000 people, Camden looked very dead...

- South of Camden, AR 7 is 4-lanes divided from US 79 to where SPUR AR 7 splits off near El Dorado. Most of this carried a 65 MPH speed limit.

- The northern US 167/AR 7 junction is a half-diamond/half-folded-diamond interchange that favors AR 7 to the north and 167/7 to the south.

- A project is underway to widen the northern half of the 167/7 El Dorado bypass to 4 lanes, from the northern split to US 63. No indications that the widening will continue south to US 82.

- An at-grade intersection existed along 167/63/7 between the BUSINESS US 82 interchange and the ramps at US 82.

- Although there were no exit tabs on the guide signage along the US 82 El Dorado bypass, the gore signs had exit numbers. The exit numbers appear to be mileage-based, with "Mile 0" being the Columbia/Union County line.

- Had lunch in El Dorado, then headed east along US 82. AHTD has added several passing lanes along US 82 between El Dorado and Strong.

- There was a farm on AR 275 south of Strong that had a sign showing a population of 300-some thousand. Chickens.

- Cut the corner southeast via LA 551 and LA 143. Pavement quality, as with many rural 2-lane Louisiana routes, was abysmal.

- LaDOTD is in the process of building a replacement bridge for LA 2 over the Ouachita River at Sterlington. The new bridge will replace an old drawbridge.

- There's about a 1.5 mile long section of US 165 north of US 80 in Monroe that has a very wide median, almost as if a freeway or expressway was planned along this segment. A rail line crosses US 165 at a very skewed angle in this area.

- US 165 has an interchange at US 80. South of US 80 to I-20 has a few traffic signals, but no private access.

- Although there are no indications of such from I-20, US 425 reassurance shields now appear duplexed with both LA 137 and LA 15.

- The 4-lane section along the now-US 425 corridor extends to about 5 miles southeast of Sicily Island. The urban segments are 5-lanes undivided, except through Sicily Island which is 4 lanes with a very wide median. Construction is underway on completing the 4-lane section to south of Clayton, including a Clayton bypass.

- Signage on southbound US 425/LA 15 in Clayton suggests that US 65 still continues south from Clayton. Although US 425 shields are now posted, US 65 shields remained in several locations all the way to Vidalia.

- And now for the "impossible". MDOT has actually resigned a U.S. route within a relatively short timespan of its implementation. Whereas it took almost 8 years for US 278 shields to appear through northern Mississippi, US 425 has completely replaced US 65 in Natchez after mere months. All former vestiges of US 65 in Mississippi are now gone.

- Construction continues on the Liberty Rd interchange at US 61/84 in Natchez. US 61/84 is now temporarily bypassed around the future overpass over Liberty Rd.

- After Natchez, it was pretty much a straight shot home through mostly familiar territory. The only thing "new" was the section of US 98 between Bude and Summit, by which I have now clinched US 98 in Mississippi.

- Finally got home in time for dinner. Final tallies were right around 6100 miles (did not get an exact number), about 185 gallons of gas (avg ~33 MPG), 4,882 photographs, one new state (Kansas for Meaghan), and 129 new counties (76 for Meaghan, 53 for me).


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