U.S. 61

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 25, 2002

widening expected in 5 years

[02/25/02] Motorists who travel north from Vicksburg should see four lanes along U.S. 61 between here and Leland within the next five years, lawmakers say.

The agreement was reached Thursday at a meeting of legislators and Mississippi Department of Transportation officials at the Capitol in Jackson.

In addition to an increase in the number of visitors to the Delta, the widening of U.S. 61 could increase the number of Europeans who travel through Vicksburg. They can fly from Amsterdam nonstop to Memphis and travel south on U.S. 61 to New Orleans on what is billed as America’s Blues Alley.

The highway is already four lane from Redwood to about a mile north of Port Gibson, and transportation officials and people from Port Gibson are still discussing a route for four lanes to take around or through that community.

The department is working on a project to widen and overlay the highway from Redwood north for 13.3 miles. That work is scheduled to be finished by summer.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Charles Capps, D-Cleveland, had received reports from Delta Council members that the project would not be finished for almost two decades.

“He (Capps) called us and the MDOT and said, It’s got to be done,”‘ state Rep. Tom Cameron, I-Greenville, said Saturday.

Cameron said the highway’s completion combined with the new U.S. 82 Mississippi River bridge will mean a lot to the Delta.

“For one thing, U.S. 61 will be a complete route from Little Rock to Jackson. This will mean a lot of tourism, increased trade, new jobs, more infrastructure and improvements,” Cameron said.

Capps said he decided to call the meeting because 20 years was too long for the Delta to wait. The agreement moved the project from the back burner to the immediate program list, he said.

“We will have a four-lane from Memphis to the Louisiana line,” Capps said.