PORT GIBSON — Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall says plans to four-lane U.S. 61 through Port Gibson may be changed to a bypass.
The Vicksburg Post reports Hall, in a civic club speech this past week, said a majority of the commission supports routing U.S. 61 around Port Gibson.
“The main thing is to get the 18-wheelers off Church Street, in my opinion,” Hall said of Port Gibson.
Port Gibson contains the last segment of U.S. 61 in Mississippi not widened into four lanes between Interstate 20 in Vicksburg and the Louisiana state line. While part of the route through town is already four lanes, other areas are not and would be widened under the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s plan. Also, a busy stretch of the highway would be re-striped into five lanes.
Widening 61 is among the final items left over from the 1987 Four-Lane Highway Program.
Hall had previously supported rerouting the highway, but had been opposed by two former commissioners. That has changed, he said, though commissioners still have environmental issues to study.
The review of the potential affect Bayou Pierre, on the north end of Port Gibson, has been in the works since 2010 by Michael Baker Jr. Inc.
Michael Arnemann, an assistant to Hall, said in February that the study was finished but MDOT had not seen it.
Business owners and many elected city and Claiborne County officials have opposed any plan to route the highway around the city, saying it would hurt business, and passed a resolution in 2010 supporting the straight-shot approach.
“Save Church Street” preservationists have been opposed to keeping the highway running though the city, saying log trucks and other heavy vehicles have damaged live oaks and historic homes and churches that line U.S. 61, known as Church Street in the center of town.
“There has been opposition to every idea we’ve put out there,” Hall said.
He did not provide a timetable for review of the study or resolution of the issue.