Thursday, May 22, 2008
Minor updates on I-269, I-22
By BARRY BURLESON
Bill Minor had hoped the Mississippi Department of Transportation would already be buying land for I-269 in Marshall County.
But the plan hit a rock – or more specifically – gravel.
“It was to go dead through a gravel pit (on Highway 309), and that caused a lot of problems,” said Minor, northern district transportation commissioner. “The feds said reroute it.
“We’re working to draw up the route, specifically where it’s going, and later this year we should start buying land.”
Minor was the guest speaker for the Holly Springs Rotary Club meeting last week.
Plans call for I-269 to still run just west of the Byhalia town limits near the Marshall-DeSoto line.
“We definitely want to get 269 done as fast as we can,” Minor said. “It will help bring more industry to Marshall County.”
Highway 78 through the county is also set to be upgraded to an interstate – I-22. But first it has to be tied to another interstate, either 65 in Birmingham or 269.
“We’re doing our part to get it ready for interstate,” Minor said.
New paving is underway near Blue Springs, where the Toyota plant is under construction. An interchange must be reworked in New Albany.
“Toyota will create a lot more traffic,” he said. “In 10 or 12 years, there will be 40 percent more trucks than today.”
Minor said another priority in north Mississippi is the four-laning of Highway 15 from Pontotoc to the Tennessee line.
“That’s the heaviest traveled two-lane road in the state,” he said.
Utility lines will be moved starting this month. The job should go to contract within a year.
The commissioner said there was no maintenance money in the 1987 Highway Program, and the department is trying to come up with a plan to get more money. MDOT’s budget is $900 million to $1 billion annually, funded by a stationary gas tax.
One thing being looked at is toll roads.
“I wasn’t crazy about that to start with,” Minor said, “but as long as you have a route already and the toll road would be an alternate route, I’m OK with it.”
A toll road bill in the recent legislative session was killed, according to the transportation commissioner.
In responding to questions, Minor said more four-laning of Highway 72 to the Tennessee line en route to Collierville is not in the works. The problem, he said, is no money.
“And the traffic count there is nowhere close to Ripley (Highway 15),” Minor said.
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