Thursday, March 24, 2005

Hwy. 72 hearing draws small crowd

Staff Writer

The widening of Highway 72 between the Tennessee/Mississippi state line and Goodman Road is expected to be in the construction stage by 2010, according to Danny Walker, district construction engineer with Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT).

Representatives of MDOT held an open forum last week in Byhalia to provide information and seek comment from property owners who may be affected by the project.

Walker said about 16 homeowners and two minor businesses would be affected by right-of-way needs for the $13.9 million project. MDOT is expected to begin purchase of right-of-way in 2008, he said.

“Once we have right-of-way purchased and utilities relocated, construction can begin,” Walker said.

The project hinges on availability of federal funding.

Walker said Tennessee is working the engineering and construction planning for the widening of 72 from the state line in to existing four lane in Tennessee. When completed, 72 will be fourlane traffic from Poplar Avenue in Memphis all the way to the Alabama line.

The widening is needed to improve safety and capacity and traffic studies indicated there would be sufficient demand to justify the project. Two new lanes will create a divided four-lane highway that meets U.S. Highway standards.

Widening begins on the south side of existing highway 72 just west of Highway 302 with two new lanes. The new lanes will transition to the north side.

The two new lanes extending from just west of Highway 302 intersection with Highway 72 will follow the south side of the existing highway for a stretch of about 1.2 miles before crossing over existing Highway 72 and continuing to the state line.

The alignment avoids disturbing a church, several businesses, a large junkyard and several possible contaminates sites which would have been impacted if the entire 4 miles of new two lane were laid on the south side of Highway 72.

Walker said the environmental study on segments of I-69 which will cross Highway 302 in Mississippi but not Highway 72, is expected to get the sign-off from federal agencies.

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