Hall wants to ban big trucks on 27

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 18, 2000

Heavy trucks may be banned from using Mississippi 27 as a shortcut, Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall said in Vicksburg Thursday.

“It’s going to make some people mad, but we’re going to make them use I-20,” Hall told members of the Port City Kiwanis.

Hall, formerly a state senator from Hinds County, said he had signed a letter to Attorney General Mike Moore asking if the Department of Transportation can restrict traffic on the state highway.

The 38-mile, two-lane route between Vicksburg and Crystal Springs links I-20 and I-55 in a way that allows truckers to bypass the Jackson area.

Mississippi 27 was added in 1999 to the comprehensive 1987 four-lane highway program of the Mississippi Legislature, but funding shortfalls have continued to push back the project.

“It will not be started until January 2008 and that ain’t going to work,” Hall said. “A lot of people get killed on that highway.”

The $95 million proposal is one of many MDOT projects suffering from what Hall called a “temporary cash flow problem.” Hall has asked Gov. Ronnie Musgrove to add MDOT funding to the special session called for Aug. 28.

The session was called by Musgrove to consider a new economic and community development plan for the state. Only items placed on the agenda by the governor can be considered in the special session.

“We could actually have to shut down some construction,” Hall said.

Maintenance on highways in the 1987 four-lane program will cost $80 million, but the Legislature has not provided for that funding, Hall said.

In addition to funding for maintenance, MDOT is looking for state money to match federal highway funds. Without matching funds, federal funding could be lost to other states, he said.

“I haven’t heard a word (from the governor),” Hall said. “I’m still hopeful that before they leave, he will add the issue.”

The House of Representatives killed a bill in committee during the regular session that could have provided $100 million in bonds to railroad companies for the improvement of their rail lines and related infrastructure. The measure, which passed the Senate, would have funded $46 million in rail improvements for the proposed Amtrak route through Vicksburg, Hall said.

“We’re trying to put together a finance package for those improvements,” he said.

Other transportation projects in the Warren County area include the $140 million I-20 overhaul scheduled to begin in 2006, the $5.3 million port highway scheduled to begin in 2003 and four-laning U.S 61 around Port Gibson. Mississippi will also split the cost of repainting the I-20 Mississippi River Bridge with Louisiana sometime next year. The project will cost $18 million, Hall said.

“Our economy has been on a steady increase and I firmly believe the 1987 highway bill was a big part of that,” Hall said. “Those who believe we can continue economic growth without public expense are just fooling themselves.”