Thursday, October 21, 2010
Holly Springs bypass opens
By SUE WATSON
“A dream come true” is what U.S. Rep. Travis Childers called the opening of the North Holly Springs bypass road Tuesday after 18 years of waiting.
Childers was among a long list of county, city and state officials who patched together the tapestry of hope and waiting to arrive at the remarkable conclusion of construction of the just over four-mile stretch of road. It will be designated as a Highway 4 and Highway 7 truck route.
“Some people think it takes too long, but sometimes it takes a long time to get a road built,” said a proud Bill Minor, Northern District transportation commissioner.
Minor said he was nagged by many until the final $2.5 million came in from Congress last year to complete the highway paving portion of the project that was begun in 1992. That’s when the late Holly Springs Mayor Eddie Lee Smith went to Washington to ask the late U.S. Congressman Jamie Whitten to get $5 million for the project. Over time, the cost of the project came to close to $10 million dollars because of difficulties in finding a funding stream and rising costs.
Multiple agencies were involved in providing funds over the long haul - first Congress, then the Appalachian Regional Commission, and the Mississippi Department of Transportation which administered the project from start to finish.
The design, engineering and property cost $3.8 million plus with Phase I completed in 2004. That portion was opened to traffic which connected Highway 4 East to Highway 7 North. Design and engineering for Phase II was completed in the same year and bids opened in November of that year but were rejected because of lack of funds. The cost of construction had been run up because of the escalating costs of fuel and materials. Paving was taken out of the bid, and bids for grade, drainage and erosion control and bridges were taken in May 2005. MDOT, the city and the county had to come up with money to finish Phase II at a cost of $3.6 million.
The project was again stalled due to the U.S. recession and economy and the hard work began anew to find money to pave the road. Meanwhile erosion problems were a problem and the county came in and took care of those problems while everyone waited for the miracle.
The miracle came in the latter part of 2008 and early part of 2009 when MDOT applied $1.6 million in federal dollars and Congressional stimulus dollars and the governor’s office and State Legislature provided $500,000 in bonds to finish the job.
Minor and others said the bypass would change Holly Springs through opportunities for economic growth, plus reduce truck traffic through downtown and provide safer transportation in the area.
Many who worked to get the road finished after Smith left his legacy included Don Hollingsworth and Larry Britt, who helped push the project along, the boards of supervisors and boards of aldermen who followed, and officials with the state agencies mentioned already and Three Rivers Planning and Development District.
“It’s been a long time coming; it was just a dream. People had to keep those visions alive,” said state Rep. Kelvin Buck, who was one of many who helped push the project over the finish line.
Seated on the podium with Buck were Rep. Tommy Woods and Sen. Bill Stone, Childers, mayor Andre’ DeBerry, State Aid engineer Brooks Miller, Hollingsworth and Larry Hall, county administrator.
“Hard work, endurance and dedication will pay off in the end and this road attests to that,” Buck said.
Stone said the push for funding was discussed every day in the state capitol until the money was found to pave the road.
Childers gave Stone credit for his persistence in seeking funding from Congress.
“Bill Stone called me one day and before he hung up he said, ‘Do you think you could find us the money?’ he said. “Three days later he called and before he hung up, he said, ‘Have you found the money yet?’ I said, ‘It has only been three days.’ ”
Childers said the bypass was in his first request as a newly elected Congressman.
More on the line of persistence, engineer Brooks Miller said it was Supervisor (Bernice) Totten who steadily leaned on him to find money for the bypass project after he had promised to help find the money.
“Mrs. Totten said, ‘Mr. Miller, are you going to build my project?’ She looked me straight in the face. ‘You told me you had money for my job and now you are telling me you don’t have the money.’ Mr. Miller, where is my money?’ ” Miller recalled.
Hollingsworth gave credit to Smith and the late W.A. McMillan, former president of Rust College, for using their influence to get the first money through the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Hall recalled the first board of supervisors that was asked to assist with the project was not interested in forking out any money for it.
“The original board said we are the only the structure to handle the money; it is a city project,” Hall said. “One supervisor said, ‘I’ll vote for it as long as it don’t cost us nothing.
“The city and the county both agreed to put money in this project. Without hard decisions along the way and a group effort, this road would not be here.”
Minor credited Childers for giving the project the final, successful push through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“He transferred $2.5 million in economic stimulus funds,” Minor said. “If it weren’t put into this road, it wouldn’t be here today. We appreciate what you did for us and are glad to have you here today with us.”
“It was just a dream in 1992,” Childers said. “Today, it is a dream come true.
“The ARRA funds to finish this road went to construction jobs for businesses in the First Congressional District. It (the project) went from paper to pavement right before our eyes. I commend you. My hat’s off to you, Marshall County, Holly Springs and to you, legislators. This is what people expect us to do.”
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