lucedale — This small town was passed by once when the U.S. 98 bypass was completed. It will be passed by again when the Mississippi 63 bypass is finished.
“It seems like there’s an atmosphere of growth with the bypasses,” said Lucedale Mayor Doug Lee. “The city is going to have to look at annexation of both bypasses. We’re expecting a lot of growth around bypass areas, so if we don’t annex, we’ll be missing the boat. When you look at Highway 49, Collins, Magee and Wiggins had to move out to the bypass to survive. And that is what Lucedale is going to be faced with.”
With the U.S. 98 bypass complete, Lucedale is only about 35 minutes from Mobile. Lucedale is about 30 minutes from Pascagoula.
Mayor Lee expects that completition of the Mississippi 63 bypass will bring even more people to live in the south George County area.
“Residents of the Coast can get out of high-crime and high-rent districts,” Lee said.
“Our land and home prices are better, and our taxes are a lot better than Jackson County, Forrest County and Mobile County. And the quality of life here is more slow-paced than it is in those areas.”
Lucedale has a population of 25,094, and surrounding George County has another 18,000.
A number of new homes are being built, particularly in the area south of Lucedale.
“We have a new high school that is only three years old,” Lee said. “That’s when the growth really started. We’re seeing a lot of residential growth especially in south part of George coming out of Jackson County.”
Currently, the city is replacing sidewalks downtown, and construction of the Destin Pipeline going through George County is filling hotel rooms and restaurants.
The city also has a new kidney dialysis business called Gambro Medical that has started offering dialysis to 35-40 patients in the Lucedale area who previously had to travel three times a week to Mobile, Hattiesburg or the Coast for treatment.
Work is ahead of schedule for the Mississippi 63 bypass project, said Alton Arrington, Southern District Area Engineer for the Mississippi Department of Transportation (DOT).
The grading and drainage portion of the project — that includes installing bridges, pipes and culverts — began in October 1996 and is 30% ahead of schedule. Grading and drainage for the nine-mile bypass cost $13 million, and is 87% complete. The project was supposed to be 57% complete at this point. Tanner Construction Co., Inc., of Ellisville is the contractor.
Arrington said that DOT plans to let a paving contract for the project late in 1998 or in early 1999. It will take about two years to complete the paving contract.
“From the time DOT decides to build a road until it opens to traffic takes approximately five years and that includes surveys, purchasing the property, letting the earth work contract — grading and drainage — and then paving contract,” Arrington said.
The Mississippi 63 bypass will cut off a few miles for travelers going from the Coast to Hattiesburg and beyond.
“It will save a lot of time, and it will be safer, much safer,” Arrington said. “Traffic is going to increase just because of the growth.”
Arrington said after the Mississippi 63 bypass is complete, the next phase of four-laning the highway will be from Lucedale north towards Leaksville and Waynesboro. Property for that project is currently being surveyed and purchased. Arrington said the new four-lane highway stretching 50 miles will be a major undertaking.
Initial contracts for the project will be let in 1999.