61-Harbor connector road may be moved, DOT says

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 7, 2001

Walter Lyons, an engineer with the Mississippi Department of Transportation District, points out a proposed alternative route to linking the Vicksburg harbor with U.S. 61. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[08/07/01] Another route may be needed for a much-discussed road to connect U.S. 61 North with the E.W. Haining Industrial Center, said officials of the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

Central District Commissioner Dick Hall, DOT District 3 Engineer Walter Lyons and Assistant DOT District 3 Engineer Carl Middleton met with a group of business leaders and government officials at the invitation of the Vicksburg Warren County Economic Development Foundation Monday. The lead topic was the port connector road proposed seven years ago in the administration of Mayor Joe Loviza.

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The idea was to build a four-lane road from U.S. 61 across from Bowie Road to North Washington Street near the Haining Industrial Center to reroute 18-wheelers traveling between the port and Interstate 20. The existing non-city route takes trucks to Redwood, miles out of their way.

In 1999, MDOT completed preliminary studies and proposed a route that crossed several roads, missed Riviera Heights and joined with North Washington at its intersection with Haining Road at the port entrance.

After MDOT did some additional preliminary work, it was realized there were some major problems with that route. Among the problems are a major traffic signal would be needed with the North Washington Street intersection; the bridge carrying Haining Road across the railroad tracks would need major and expensive improvements, and, most importantly, the grade to and from North Washington Street would be very steep.

“What we want to see is if there are any major objections to what we are proposing,” Lyons said.

Pointing to an aerial photo on which another route was shown, Lyons said the new proposal would leave U.S. 61 at Bowie Road and traverse a route to the north. When the road met North Washington Street, it would cross that thoroughfare on a bridge about 40 feet above the existing road. The new route would then loop around the Anderson-Tully Co. mill north of Haining Road and meet Haining Road at its intersection with Long Lake Road.

“This new route would make a direct connection to the port,” Lyons said, “and there would be no direct connection with North Washington Street.”

The advantages of the new route are it would intersect only one local road instead of four, it would have a shallower grade at North Washington Street and it would eliminate what was perceived as a dangerous intersection with North Washington and Haining Road, Lyons said.

He said the new route would probably be more expensive to build and it would be about a mile longer.

“I think the folks on the port would prefer this route,” Hall said, adding it, too, would accomplish the objective of taking most of the trucks off Washington Street.

“If anyone has heartburn over this we need to know it,” he said.

Middleton said environmental studies have to be performed and surveys would have to be made, but estimated work on the road is still two to three years off.

“There are just so many variables,” he said.

The MDOT officials said they had not gotten to the stage of making cost estimates yet.

Responding to questions from EDF Executive Director Jimmy Heidel, the MDOT officials addressed several other topics.

A rail bypass for Vicksburg. “Some money is going to have to be made available from somewhere for railroads in Mississippi,” Hall said.

That money, Hall said, could be state or federal or it could be from bond issues, but it should be used to lend money at low rates so the railroads could do such track work.

Interstate 20 reconstruction. Lyons said an engineering firm is studying what’s needed to reconstruct I-20 from the Mississippi River to U.S. 61 North and the work is a long term project.

In the short term, Lyons said he is trying to pull together as many resources as possible to continue the rehabilitation of the highway.

Frontage Road Extension. Lyons said extending the road from where it ends now at Old Highway 27 to Vicksburg Factory Outlets is not a high priority with MDOT but if local governments are willing to do it, MDOT would allow the work to be done under a permit.

Flowers Interchange. The MDOT Planning Division is working on plans to improve it now.