The good and bad of MDOT’s grand I-20 plans

Published 11:06 pm Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Mississippi Department of Transportation’s bold plan for Interstate 20 through Vicksburg has some valid points, but it is filled with solutions looking for problems.

What needs to be done:

• The on-ramps for entering and exiting U.S. 61 North and South are troubling and must be fixed.

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• The I-20 on-ramp at East Clay and the off-ramp at 61 North are packed too tightly. Their juxtaposition presents a safety hazard, forcing traffic to dart across two lanes of interstate to get to the 61 North ramp. Similarly, the left exit onto 61 South from Halls Ferry is a race against 18-wheelers. In this, we agree with MDOT’s plans for flyovers.

• On- and off-ramps are too short in places, especially getting onto I-20 west from Clay Street. The ramp is uphill, woefully short and has no emergency pull-off except a ravine with railroad tracks. What’s amazing is that more wrecks have not been reported at the ramp.

• South Frontage Road needs to be extended over rail tracks for easier access to the Outlets at Vicksburg. The current access is a mishmash of turns that centers on one way in and one way out.

Following are parts of the plan we think need to be rethought:

• Making frontage roads one way is a wrong move. Larger cities have frontage roads with feeder roads under highways. It’s just not necessary here. Too many businesses occupy the frontage roads, and the majority are opposed to one-way flow. As one business owner said, rightfully, “It’s just a horrendous expense for a problem that’s not there.” If anything, adding designated turn lanes to the frontage roads might be a positive step, but reducing them to one way is unnecessary.

• Making the six-mile stretch from Washington Street to U.S. 61 North six lanes also should be examined more thoroughly. Does Vicksburg have a traffic problem? On days when there is a wreck or bridge construction, maybe, but on a normal day, traffic flows freely in both directions. Rush hour is non-existent. The transformation would create a logistical nightmare for years of construction — and after.

MDOT makes valid points and many of its proposals should be considered, but also let’s solve what needs to be solved and leave alone that which is fine as it is.

How many times has it been said: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”