Median being added on Halls Ferry

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Vicksburg employees begin work in Marcus Bottom Tuesday to help slow traffic and add safety to the Halls Ferry Road area. (Jenny Sevcik The Vicksburg Post)

[1/21/04]Inserting a median on Halls Ferry Road through Marcus Bottom should improve the flow of traffic and the appearance of one of the city’s primary entrance corridors, Vicksburg’s chief engineer says.

City staff began work Tuesday in the area between Bowmar Avenue and Lane Street, but not everyone is happy about it.

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The median will be lighted and landscaped and James “Bubba” Rainer, head of the city’s public works division, said the idea is to slow motorists and to improve aesthetics.

“It’s really going to change the look of the area,” Rainer said. “It’s like planting a seed and hoping it grows.”

Marcus Bottom, in its heyday, was one of the city’s largest black residential areas, sandwiched between more affluent white areas on Chambers and Drummond streets. Known as home to craftsmen and artists for decades, the street was overtaken by drunks and drug-dealing in the 1970s and early 1980s. Improvements started 15 years ago have continued.

Today, the roadway through Marcus Bottom is 40-feet-wide with two lanes of traffic, turning lanes and some on-street parking. Plans are to reduce each of the lanes to 15 feet and cut out all parking along the road.

City officials said they also want to slow traffic because of the number of pedestrians who cross Halls Ferry Road along that stretch.

Jeff Dickerson, the owner of Dickerson Tire Service, 2607 Halls Ferry Road, said he is all in favor of beautification efforts in that area, but doesn’t like the idea of putting in a median through Marcus Bottom.

“It’s going to create one heck of a problem,” Dickerson said.

Traffic counts indicate that about 11,000 cars travel Halls Ferry Road between Bowmar Avenue and Lane Street daily, and Dickerson said it’s already difficult turning left out of his parking lot. He said the median will make that impossible and stop southbound traffic from turning into his parking lot.

He also pointed out that several businesses along that stretch have no parking lots and rely on street parking.

“It’ll look good, but it’ll create a problem,” Dickerson said.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman said he has heard from business owners and that the city will look at some possible changes in the design. Work began in the middle block north of Marcus Street and will go north, saving the block in front of Dickerson Tire for last.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said he expects the work to improve the appearance and land values there while helping remove the stigma attached to Marcus Bottom.

“We’re trying to create a neighborhood-like environment and create a great entrance into the city,” Leyens said.

By narrowing the streets there, an idea developed through the proposed Smart Code design, Leyens said traffic should slow down and people might take more notice of the area.

For the past several years, Vicksburg has undergone a stepped-up landscaping program at city entrances on Clay, Indiana at Confederate Avenue and the Halls Ferry overpass of I-20.