Cable barrier going up along Interstate 20

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 20, 2008

A comprehensive update on Mississippi Department of Transportation projects in Warren County included news that a cable barrier is being installed in the Interstate 20 median along Vicksburg’s perimeter.

Dick Hall, elected as one of three MDOT commissioners, provided the update to members of the Vicksburg Lions Club Wednesday.

He also said a long-sought comprehensive redesign of I-20 to add lanes and eliminate dangerous entry, exit and crossover points is many years away.

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“There is no doubt that some of the I-20 interchanges in Vicksburg are outdated and may be a safety hazard,” said Hall, a native of Vicksburg. “Additionally, when there is a wreck or some kind of occurrence which blocks traffic, alternate routes are few and unknown to visitors. The only real solution is a total reconstruction of the interstate.”

Hall said Neel-Scheaffer, a consulting firm often hired by MDOT, is compiling an environmental study for the reconstruction of the I-20 corridor from the Mississippi River bridge to U.S. 61 North.

The new design will be based on projected traffic in the year 2040 and is expected to include at least three lanes of traffic in each direction. Hall said that, though the plan will be modeled for traffic counts over 30 years from now construction will begin well before that date, but didn’t say when. Access ramps from Clay Street to I-20 West no longer meet design standards and there are choke points for traffic entering and crossing over at three locations.

A project to rebuild and resurface the existing interstate and frontage roads, remove vegetation and fencing and update lighting was completed in 2006.

Work began this week for a cable barrier of the type being credited with preventing at least 13 head-on collisions along Jackson’s I-220 since its August installation.

The barrier, which will be the first in the median here, is designed to absorb the impact of vehicles and keep them from veering through the median and into oncoming traffic. The cables make the protective measure much more forgiving than concrete would be and are a good deal cheaper than most median barrier choices, Hall said.

“This an important thing,” said Hall. “This barrier has prevented many injuries in Jackson and it is the first barrier of its type we’ve had in central Mississippi.”

According to research on the Washington Department of Transportation’s Web site done in 2007, crossover median collisions decreased 74 percent after a cable median barrier was installed there and deadly median collisions dropped from 18 per year to about five per year. According to the Transportation Research Board Web site, a 2006 study by the Missouri Department of Transportation showed the cable barrier along I-70 which links Kansas City and St. Louis reduced fatalities by 92 percent.

The barrier, which will run about 4 miles, from the exit for U.S. 61 South to the exit of U.S. 61 North, is expected to cost approximately $1.2 million. Completion is scheduled for spring.

Also along I-20, discussion continues on whether the state will alter frontage road traffic patterns, as it has done along I-55 north of Jackson.

“We’re also looking at the possibility of making the frontage roads one way,” said Hall. “Now, I know a lot of people are against this because they are used to the way things are and some businesses feel it would be a bad thing, but look at I-55. The frontage roads are one way and business is booming there. The reality is that the roads are going to have to be changed to one way to field traffic when (the comprehensive redesign) begins on I-20 anyway.”

Ongoing and future projects for Vicksburg are, Hall said:

* The lighting foundation work along I-20 that covered approximately 30 poles and cost an estimated $326,165 is finished, though lights may not be on yet due to wiring issues. The repairs included new bases and new bulbs.

* Construction on the portion of U.S. 61 South, known as the “Signal Hill Slide” is complete. The project cost just over $1.2 million.

* The overlaying of U.S. 61 North from I-20 to Redwood should be complete by the end of the month. The project is expected to have a final cost of about $5.5 million and has now been expanded to include a turn lane to handle southbound traffic turning east into the Kangaroo gas station.

*The Yazoo River replacement bridge on U.S. 61 North at Redwood is scheduled to be ready for traffic next spring. After traffic moves to the new bridge, the current bridge will be demolished. The project is expected to cost $32.7 million.

* A preferred alternative for the South Frontage Road bridge and interchange connection, which pertains to the Frontage Road connection from Porters Chapel Road to the Outlets at Vicksburg, was presented at a public hearing in February 2007. Consulting engineering firm, Wilbur Smith Associates, has been chosen to produce the final construction plans, and the project will progress as funds are made available.

* The consultant engineering firm of ABMB is conducting an environmental study that will produce preferred alternatives for the construction of a port road connector from U.S. 61 North to the Port of Vicksburg. The project is being reviewed by the Department of Archives and History and the National Park Service. Once the environmental study produces an alignment that is feasible to pursue, it will be presented at a public hearing.

• Reconstruction of Mississippi 27 from the Beechwood intersection to the Warren Central and Beechwood Elementary area is still in the design phase, after it was found the original design, calling for a flyover, would have cost more than it would take to completely rebuild the two schools. The idea was to eliminate school buses and other traffic crossing highway traffic. A redesign will be presented to the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees and county supervisors once ready.

• Four-landing Mississippi 27 from the railroad overpass near Warren Central to the Big Black River, is the No. 1 project in the New Vision 21 plan.

• Maintenance overlay for U.S. 80 from Mississippi 27 to Bovina will be done as funds become available.


Contact Megan Holland at