New outlet may alleviate congestion at Culkin-61

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 23, 2002

[01/23/02]A new road could take the pressure off the Culkin-U.S. 61 North junction where at least 16 wrecks occurred in 2001.

It would link Culkin from a point near the abandoned elementary school to the east side of the ring road around River Region Medical Center.

In addition to the wreck figures from the E911 Dispatch Center, there is heavy congestion at the junction where turning drivers must cross two lanes of highway traffic.

“Anything they do to reduce traffic will reduce wrecks,” said Undersheriff Jeff Riggs.

District 1 Supervisor David McDonald, in whose district the proposed new road would be located, said the project is in the preliminary planning stage.

There are no plans to close what is essentially a turnoff from the highway onto Culkin Road, but at least drivers would have a much safer option. The hospital road intersects with Sherman Avenue and has a traffic light already operating, even though the hospital won’t open until Feb. 17.

“We have done some of the preliminary design work,” McDonald said.

A general area for the route and identification of the property owners is part of the process. Representatives of the county have made contact with some, but not all, of those people about the possibility of selling some of their land for a new road.

One of the locations county officials are looking at is now occupied by T’Beaux, a sandwich shop and catering service located at 1625 Culkin Road. The small building is located across Culkin Road from the old Culkin school and Mount Alban Road.

“That would give us an ideal intersection,” McDonald said.

He said the county has been in contact with Tommy Ray, owner of the property, about the possibility of selling.

“We have an appraisal done, but state law requires a review appraisal,” McDonald said, adding that the county is getting that review appraisal now.

Even if the county and Ray cannot agree on a price for Ray’s land, McDonald said the project is not stymied. The western part of what he called the Mount Alban extension could be moved north on Culkin Road.

“That would mean we would be dealing with many of the same people,” he said.

But, McDonald said, if the county cannot reach agreements with property owners, the county does not intend to take the land by eminent domain. Instead, he said, the project will be scrapped.

County Engineer John McKee said the road would be a half a mile or less.

“If you go to the southeast corner of of the hospital (tract), the (Culkin Water District) water tower is just right there,” McDonald said.

McKee said there is, essentially, a deep ravine and a high ridge between the hospital tract and Culkin Road, and considerable fill will be needed if the road is built.

Both said the project has not reached the stage where cost estimates can be made.

In any case, McDonald said, money for construction will be obtained from a Mississippi Development Authority grant with any local match or overruns paid by River Region.