Thursday, August 25, 2011
Four-laning rest of 72
By SUE WATSON
A meeting for the public to view maps of the proposed widening of U.S. 72 – the remaining two-lane section of the highway situated in Marshall County – drew lots of interest from residents who own property that may be affected by the four-laning project.
There was no presentation from Mississippi Department of Transportation officials, who were on hand August 15 at H.W. Byers School to answer questions from the public.
“This is just to provide information,” said John Reese, with roadway design in Jackson.
The new two-lane portion will be built entirely on the north side of the existing two-lane highway, except near Knox Road. At that location, the new lanes will transition to the south side and tie into the existing four-lane just west of the State Route 302 interchange and will extend from the 302 intersection with 72 to the state line, according to Richard Allen, district engineer with MDOT.
The entire Magnolia subdivision on the north side of 72 will be removed, he said. In fact, any structure enclosed in the yellow lines on the preliminary project map will have to be removed or relocated to allow construction of the highway. When the project drawings become more complete, MDOT will have right-of-way agents meeting with every affected property owner to obtain the necessary acquisition. The yellow line, which continues to be a preliminary boundary line that will enclose both the old and the new lane, may be shifted in or out until the project gets further into the design stage, Allen said.
The red lines on the project map represent the pavement edge line for the new road bed and the new interchange that will be built to the Norfolk Southern’s new intermodal facility in Rossville, Tenn.
Federal and state matching dollars will pay for the project, expected to run about $40 million, Allen said. The construction phase of the project will not likely begin until about 2014, he said, and will take about two and a half years to build.
This project has been on a list of priority highway improvement projects and is now at priority, Allen said. That means it will move forward unless there are unexpected budget cuts at the federal/state level.
Adam Johnson, with the environmental division, said 80-plus property owners could be affected over the entire project. Homes may have to be moved depending on where they are located, he said.
“With the (Magnolia) mobile home park, based on the removal of two sewage lagoons serving the park, all the properties that need those sewage lagoons to treat the sewage will be relocated,” Johnson said.
Reese said the highway-widening project will be done in stages. The rights-of-way deeds, maps and appraisals of property come first, he said. Then land purchase begins. Some land may be donated, most of it donated by developer William Adair, he said. It will take one and a half to around two years to get all the work done before construction begins.
Once construction begins, it will take about two and a half years to build the new lanes and intersections. The four-lane will go over the access road to the intermodal facility in Rossville, Tenn. So construction will not be complete for four or five years unless the project is put on the fast track like a section of Highway 9 in Pontotoc, Reese said.
Public interest in the maps was mixed. Some individuals were looking at the maps hoping to find land to buy for a business. Others were concerned about how long it will take to build and how truck traffic will disrupt their lives if the intermodal yard opens to business before U.S. 72 is widened.
Others were concerned about who was paying for the overpass or whether their land values would be docked due to a sewer problem in the old Magnolia subdivision. One lot owner in the subdivision said the old mobile home park began as a place to rent a spot for a trailer, but today most residents actually own their lots. Some own several, the resident said.
Johnson said properties in the mobile home parks will not be docked for value because of the lagoons or for any other reason.
Allen said trucks servicing the intermodal facility will enter on the old two-lane section until the interchange and four-lane opens.
Developer Bill Adair said he thinks the Norfolk Southern intermodal facility has moved forward by several years the widening of Highway 72 project as well as I-269 and other highway developments.
“Look at I-269 up to Highway 385, I think that is related to Norfolk Southern and the jobs that will be created,” Adair said.
He said he understands how some people feel who have to give up their property for the widening of Highway 72. He grew up in Collierville and has four daughters who also graduated from Collierville High School, so Adair said he knows how people feel when their community changes. And more change than the intermodal facility is coming, he said.
“I’ve talked to 51 different companies who are interested in locating here,” he said. “No doubt, it (the intermodal development) will create quite a number of jobs. I think 72 Highway needed widening for safety features, anyway.”
Adair said a study that estimated up to 2,000 trucks a day would come in and out of the intermodal facility is likely a high estimate, and that at any rate, that kind of traffic is not expected before 72 is widened and the interchange to the Rossville facility is built.
“I’m sure Norfolk Southern wishes for 2,000 trucks, but I don’t think that will be in my lifetime,” he said.
Adair said he hopes that truck traffic will be split between Goodman Road (Highway 302) and Highway 72 to avoid congestion while 72 is being widened.
He said he expects people in the area will not be affected as adversely as they think. He said MDOT has done a great job of planning the highway developments in the North Mississippi area and that the traffic plan is going to work out.
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