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County leaders want to know why highway project is delayed

PEAR RIVER COUNTY — State transportation officials are to discuss the $10 million four-laning of U.S. 11 in a meeting this week with Pearl River County leaders.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation has announced that the project will be delayed, raising questions from local officials.

County Engineer Les Dungan tells the Picayune Item the project would help solve Picayune and Pearl River County’s biggest traffic headache.

Dungan said almost daily traffic grinds to a slow, shuffling gait as vehicles overload the highway and the traffic signal at the intersection of Mississippi 43 and U.S. 11. The completion and opening of Highland Community Hospital’s $50 million facility at Highland Commons and U.S. 11 will make matters even worse. The $10 million project was supposed to rectify that.

MDOT originally proposed reworking U.S. Hwy. 11 North into a four-lane highway with a raised grass median with turning lanes. All the side road entrances to the highway also would be reworked.

Currently, the highway is three lanes, one north, one south, with a turning lane.

Plans had been to start work in the spring of 2013.

Dungan said it’s unclear whether MDOT’s decision to delay the project had been made and whether it could be reversed.

County and Picayune officials were trying to at least salvage the installation of a signal light at Highland Commons Parkway and U.S. 11 North.

Picayune officials said the traffic situation on U.S. 11 North would be almost intolerable without a light at that intersection, and even worse if the highway is not made four-lane.

“We need to meet with them and get a concrete plan with hard dates in it, as to when things are going to happen. That’s our goal, and that’s what we are working towards. It (U.S. 11) is definitely a major problem right now; it won’t work like it is,” Dungan said.

The four-laning of the highway was supposed to be a major cog in the process of redoing the traffic flow in North Picayune once the hospital was open.

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