City’s heaviest traffic? Clay Street

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Traffic travels Clay Street Sunday past the parking lot of Red Carpet Lanes. State reports show 20,000 cars traveled Clay Street between Interstate 20 and Baldwin Ferry Road daily last year.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[9/03/01]More cars are traveling Clay Street each day than any other city street and it may be due in part to the growth in north Vicksburg along U.S. 61.

A report by the Planning Division of the Mississippi Department of Transportation shows about 20,000 cars traveled Clay Street between Interstate 20 and Hope Street daily last year. It’s an increase from 17,000 in 1999 and surpasses last year’s busiest stretch, along Halls Ferry near Pemberton Boulevard, estimated at 18,000.

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City Engineer Garnet Van Norman said one reason for the Clay Street increase could be drivers entering town from the growing areas off U.S. 61 North.

“That’s a developing area out towards the new hospital, and that’s got to put more pressure on Clay Street,” he said.

The report shows a daily average of 51,000 cars traveled Interstate 20 between U.S. 61 North and Clay Street and 24,000 traveled U.S. 61 North from Culkin Road to I-20 daily last year.

Construction work began in January on River Region Health System’s $112 million medical complex, which will replace the 44-year-old ParkView Regional Medical Center on Grove Street. It is expected to be complete in February.

The area is also the site of one of the two Vicksburg Warren School District mega-elementary schools that opened at the beginning of the 1999-2000 school year. Residential areas off Oak Ridge Road have also expanded with the development of two new subdivisions.

“That’s all new and we don’t know what that’s going to bring,” Van Norman said.

Road improvements along U.S. 61 North are scheduled to begin next week between Redwood and the Issaquena County line in work that will extend north to Onward. About 4,400 cars traveled the section of that highway daily between Redwood and Highway 465, the highway that connects U.S. 61 with Eagle Lake.

While traffic counts were up last year at the east entrance to Clay Street, the number of people continuing west into downtown Vicksburg remained unchanged since 1999. Mayor Laurence Leyens said that indicates tourists at the Vicksburg National Military Park are not visiting the rest of the city.

“It clearly defines the challenge we have as a community,” Leyens said. “We have a great customer base right at our front door.”

The number of cars on Clay Street dropped from 20,000 at I-20 to 15,000 headed west of Mission 66 and 4,600 west of Monroe Street, on the east end of Downtown Vicksburg. At the same time, the traffic count along Halls Ferry Road south of I-20 was up about 1,000 cars per day, but those heading north of Confederate Avenue and into downtown was down from 14,000 in 1999 to 11,000 last year.

Washington Street traffic between Speed Street and Veto Street stayed the same at 8,300 cars daily, but dropped on the north side of First East Street, from 9,000 in 1999 to 7,700 last year. Most other downtown streets saw no change in traffic.

Van Norman said traffic on Halls Ferry last year may have been affected by road work between Cain Ridge and Williams roads.

“It’s hard to put your finger on traffic flow when it’s torn up due to construction,” he said.

He said the $1 million project is nearing completion.

An obstacle now plaguing motorists along Clay Street is the work that began in earnest this spring at the Mission 66 intersection.

The contract to widen the intersection was awarded in December, but little work was done by the original contractor, J.B. Talley Inc. of St. Martinville, La. The $486,789 contract then was let to Hemphill Construction of Florence in March after the Talley withdrew, citing internal financial problems.

That same contractor had also withdrawn from the Halls Ferry Road project, causing about a month of delays.

The work at Clay and Mission is expected to be finished in December. City officials are also looking to include $300,000 worth of work at Clay and Hope streets in next year’s budget.

North Washington Street is also undergoing overlay and drainage work. The $1.2 million project began in January and is expected to be complete in October.