Project to extend South Frontage Road picks up speed|[7/13/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 13, 2005

$2.5 million study could take a year

Preliminary work has begun toward extending South Frontage Road across rail tracks to Vicksburg Factory Outlets, said Walter Lyons, a district engineer for the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

Engineers with Neel-Schaffer Inc. of Jackson have been hired to study the factors involved in an extension of the road, such as environmental impact, safety issues and traffic information, Lyons said.

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The long-sought extension would link the portion of the road that runs from Halls Ferry north to Old Highway 27 with the portion going from Berryman Road to the outlet center.

The extension might involve an overpass of Kansas City Southern Railway lines that parallel at Old Highway 27 in the area. Another option is a gated grade crossing of the tracks.

A reconstruction of Interstate 20 from the Mississippi River Bridge to the Bovina interchange east of Vicksburg began in March and is focusing on pavement renovation and lighting maintenance.

Whatever is done with South Frontage Road, Lyons said, must be compatible with that reconstruction.

Lyons emphasized any actual construction of the extension is some time off since MDOT must conduct a series of public meetings and hearings once plans are drawn up.

Business leaders in that area, particularly around Vicksburg Factory Outlets, are relieved the process is picking up speed.

“We’re very excited about it. It’s something we’ve wanted for 10 years,” said Margaret Gilmer, general manager of Vicksburg Factory Outlets.

Gilmer has lobbied Congress for nearly two years with other area business groups such as Community Alliance for federal money for the extension.

Sheila Simmons, owner of The Collage, a gift store and accessories business in Vicksburg Factory Outlets, said it would give customers another route to shop at her and other stores in that complex.

“People tell me all the time they can’t find us,” Simmons said.

The study, funded by a $2.5 million appropriation from Congress, should take up to a year to complete, said Dick Hall, Central District commissioner for MDOT.