Thursday, March 8, 2012
I-69 – highway for tomorrow
By SUE WATSON
When federal highway administrator Victor Mendez assisted in the groundbreaking for 3.1 miles of new highway linking Highway 385 in Memphis, Tenn., to Chickasaw Trail Industrial Park in north Marshall County, he said the I-69 Corridor is about building a highway for tomorrow.
“It’s about building our future,” he said.
Mike Tagert, Mississippi commissioner of transportation for the northern district, agreed.
“I think it’s going to be a real game changer for the region,” he said.
The I-69 project will make one continuous 1,600-mile long corridor from the Canadian border in Michigan at Port Huron to the southern border in Mexico near the Texas border towns of Loredo and Brownsville. The corridor will serve as a superhighway of sorts (also called the NAFTA Superhighway Corridor) for movement of freight over the road through the central section of the country. On its way it connects to many already existing east-west highway systems, rail and waterway systems as well as airports.
Port cities in the area of the Gulf of Mexico will be served as well as ports on the Atlantic coast that connect via rail and highway to the central portion of the country.
Tanner Construction will build the roadbed and bridges by 2013 for the 3.1 mile segment. It will be overlayed in 2015 and ready for opening to serve the North Mississippi/West Tennessee area. Freight from the beltway around Memphis will enter Mississippi along this segment and then go in many directions including the highway supply route to the new Norfolk Southern intermodal yard in Rossville, Tenn.
When the North Mississippi stretch of I-69 is completed, freight will wind from Tennessee through North Mississippi to Mississippi Highway 61 and carry freight to the river bridge to be built near Benoit. The new river bridge will be a four-lane bridge connecting I-69 in Mississippi to I-69 in Arkansas.
Mendez said the new interstate project will both move freight economically and enhance regional and national transportation networks. And it will connect communities and enable people to live better lives by reducing roadway congestion, he said, “so people can spend less time in their cars and more time doing the things they enjoy.”
Tagert and Mississippi Department of Transportation District II engineer Richard Allen answered specific questions about the 25-mile stretch of new interstate between the Tennessee state/Mississippi state line and I-55.
Q. I think folks would like to know when each piece of this 25-mile segment from I-55 to the Tennessee state line will be let for construction and when it is expected to be opened. Do you have any information on that?
A. Allen. MDOT anticipates the remaining 25 miles to be let into separate construction projects between 2012 and 2015. Utility relocations and right-of-way (ROW) acquisitions are progressing in stages throughout this 25-mile segment, which will allow multiple projects to be under construction during this time frame.
Once this is completed, projects will be let for paving in this 25-mile segment. The completion of this work is dependent upon many factors such as weather and preconstruction operations (including utility relocation and right-of-way acquisition. These factors will determine completion and ultimately when the corridor will be opened to traffic.
Q. I know the folks in Byhalia who have had to move would be interested in when the segment from Chickasaw Trails at Highway 302 to I-22 in Byhalia will be let and completed.
A. Allen. This section is within the above mentioned 25-mile segment. Final design of the construction plans are progressing and construction is anticipated to start between 2014 and 2015. Utility relocations and ROW acquisitions are underway at this time.
Q. Talk about the I-69 and I-269 projects and the reference to building a highway for tomorrow.
A. Tagert. Both the I-69 Corridor and the I-269 Connector are about building a more comprehensive highway for tomorrow’s needs. We (Mississippi has) have got to look more toward intermodalism – connecting all modes of transportation – to compete nationally and internationally in trade and commerce. We must utilize and integrate our rail system and waterborne transportation and our airports to be truly effective.
The I-69 project will make one continuous 1,600-mile long corridor starting at Port Huron, Michigan/Sarnia, Ontario, Canada and terminating in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) in Texas at the United States/Mexico border.
Q. The corridor will serve as a superhighway of sorts for movement of freight over the road through the central section of the country. On its way, it connects to many already existing east-west highway systems, rail and waterway systems as well as airports.
A. Allen. This will create many new distribution and logistics opportunities for the Mississippi Delta.
Q. Port cities in the area of the Gulf of Mexico will be served, as well as ports on the Atlantic coast that connect via rail and highway to the central portion of the country.
A. Allen. Interstate 69 also is a key transportation recommendation of the Delta Initiatives, which is aimed at the revitalization and economic development of the Lower Mississippi River Valley. The Lower Mississippi River Valley is composed of portions of seven states bound together through their location along the Mississippi River. Those seven states are Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. This Lower Mississippi River Valley region has long been considered one of the poorest regions in the nation, and the Mississippi Delta counties contained within Segment of Independent Utility (SIU) 11 are located in the heart of the Lower Mississippi Delta. Once complete, this corridor would provide for national economic interests, enhance local economic development opportunities along and near the corridor, and provide an improved system of transportation for both routine travel and emergency travel in the event of a national crisis.
A. Tagert. With access to Chickasaw Trail Industrial Park, two Class I railways, as well as short line railroad service, southward through DeSoto County, the Holly Springs-Marshall County Airport, and close proximity to the fourth largest inland port in the country in Memphis, Marshall County is poised and ready as a prime location for increased development and investment. Interstate 269 represents not only great opportunity for Marshall County, but also for the entire state and the Mid-South region.
Q. Will Tanner Construction Company build the roadbed and bridges by 2013 for the 3.1-mile segment?
A. Allen. After completion of the 3.1-mile segment, a separate paving project will immediately be under construction with an anticipated completion in early 2015.
Q. This segment will serve the North Mississippi/West Tennessee area. Freight from the beltway around Memphis will enter Mississippi along this segment and then go in many directions, including the highway supply route to the new Norfolk Southern intermodal yard in Rossville, Tenn.
When is the remainder of the 25-mile loop from the Tennessee state line to I-55/I-69/MS 304 in DeSoto County scheduled to be completed?
A. Allen. It will be under construction for the next six to seven years. When finished, I-69 traffic will move southward from I-269 on down Highway 61 and carry freight to the river bridge to be built just south of Benoit.
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