Mississippi road builders continue working on projects around the state

ROADSA proposed road project in a small Mississippi town is a good example of what is keeping the state’s road builders up at night — and idled during the day.

Residents of Smithville were told not to worry over the prospect that a Mississippi Highway 25 bypass would negatively affect the town’s Central Business District. At least not for a couple more decades, said Bill Jamison, Northern District engineer for the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT).

Federal and state money is unlikely to be available for realigning and widening the highway in Monroe County, he said.

Mike Pepper, executive director of the Mississippi Road Builders Association, maintains the issue is the current funding mechanism under the state’s 1987 highway plan.

“Who else in Mississippi is operating under a funding mechanism set in 1987?” asks Pepper. “My guess is none.”

No major road work projects were reported in January or February this year.

Here are the handful of road and bridge projects so far this year:

March

» Work began on a Jones County interchange improvement project at the Interstate 59-16th Avenue/Exit 95 interchange. The $1.18-million project was awarded to Dunn Roadbuilders of Laurel. The project includes the installation of a traffic signal and redesign of traffic flow at the interchange. When the project is completed, the merge condition will be eliminated on northbound I-59. The project is scheduled for completion this summer.

» Work began on the rehabilitation of the Interstate 110 Drawbridge in Biloxi, The $8.2-million project, awarded to PCL Civil Constructors of Tampa, Fla., is the second and final phase of the renovation project. In 2011, MDOT completed a $4.1-million project involving the replacement of the steel grid decking of the bridge. Phase two construction was scheduled to begin in April, and will be a complete renovation of the mechanical, electrical and interior components of the bridge. In addition, the steel portions of the bridge will be covered by layers of protective coating, which preserves the life of the structure. The project is scheduled for completion in July 2014.

» MDOT began the initial stages of a planned widening of U.S. Highway 90 to six lanes from Ocean Springs to Gautier. MDOT engineer Kelly Castleberry said crews had begun surveying the roughly 11-mile stretch of U.S. 90 — the only area of U.S. 90 not already six lanes. Castleberry said there was no time frame as yet for when the project would begin and the cost of the project will be determined by the plan that is ultimately selected. Once begun, Castleberry estimates the project would take 18-24 months to complete, although he noted that the project would be done in sections.

ROADSApril

» State transportation officials said they expect to spend about $2 million on improvements to Mississippi Highway 182 in East Mississippi. The work would include overlaying the road’s surface within city limits, developing landscape islands, improving sidewalk access and re-pouring driveways. City engineer Edward Kemp said bid advertisements are expected to begin in June and construction could start shortly after work contracts are signed with MDOT. Until then, officials will continue hammering out the design and details associated with the rehabilitation, Kemp said.

» Work began in Warren County to shore up the hillsides along parts of U.S. Highway 80 that eroded during January’s heavy rain. State transportation officials said the earthen bluffs at U.S. 80 and Rancho Road were set back farther to limit the impact of further mudslides. MDOT engineer Kevin Magee said Warren County Road Department crews and equipment were working on washouts on Culkin Road. County officials said rebuilding supporting soil beneath U.S. 80 in Bovina in an area that overlooks a hollow more than 100 feet deep would start in April, weather permitting,

May

» The reconstruction and widening of I-55 from Byram to McDowell Road in Hinds County got underway. Once work is complete, the Mississippi Department of Transportation said the public can expect a brand new six-lane highway from Byram to the I-20 split, just north of McDowell Road. Other work is the placing of retaining walls, interstate lighting, new signage and minor bridge work located at Elton Road and McDowell Road. Upon completion, the frontage roads, local roads and interstate ramps in the area will be overlaid. The project was awarded to James Construction Group of Baton Rouge, La., at a total cost of $93.5 million and is expected to be complete by November 2015.

» DeSoto County unveiled a plan to team with Olive Branch on a $600,000 project to replace an old timber-supported bridge on State Line Road over Johns Creek. A consulting engineer working on the project said the bridge is one of DeSoto County’s last remaining timber bridges. The DeSoto County Board of Supervisors approved the arrangement but held off on any work pending the city’s approval of joint action and cost-splitting. County road manager Andy Swims, noting municipal elections in both May and June, said the city also was waiting for the new administration to consider the matter. Available to the county for the project are federal Surface Transportation Program funds funneled through the state.

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