Wisconsin connector offers much potential

Published 6:35 pm Saturday, March 12, 2016

After a rights of way negotiation and delayed permit applications, the Wisconsin connector road is finally reaching the second to last stage.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday authorized City Clerk Walter Osborne to advertise for bids for the project, which will cut through the remaining portions of the old Battlefield Mall property to connect North Frontage Road with Wisconsin Avenue, opening some undeveloped property and giving local motorists an easier access to Wisconsin Avenue.

Perhaps the easiest step in the entire process occurred in November 2013, when the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved rezoning the 22-acre tract along North Frontage owned by JEBCO LLC, the parent company for Blackburn Nissan, from C-4 commercial to planned use development, opening the way for the road.

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The planned use development, or PUD, designation allowed light industrial operations, and cleared the way for the city to apply for a $1.3 million MDA low-interest CAP loan.

The difficulties with the proposed project involved negotiations with River Hills Bank for the right of way to cross bank property. The talks, which were resolved in late 2015, delayed the city from getting a permit to build the road from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, and forced the board to seek an extension on the loan to April from MDA. In January, everything fell into place, clearing the way for the project.

The project is a step toward the city’s future, providing more room for industrial or business growth along the corridor created by the road as it connects Wisconsin and North Frontage. One new business is already slated to be near the new road. The Cannon Toyota and Cannon Honda dealerships will occupy space at the road’s intersection with North Frontage.

It is also a move toward improved traffic flow and safety.

One of the early reasons for building the connector was the decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to relocate its Engineering Research and Development Center on the ERDC campus to a site closer to Wisconsin Avenue. The connector will give ERDC employees an alternate route home and to work, allowing them to bypass the center’s Halls Ferry Entrance and relieve what has been a major traffic problem for many years.

And with the city’s plans to develop its Fisher Ferry property as a sports complex, that means families headed to the site for tournament play will not be faced with negotiating heavy traffic on a narrow road in the afternoons when ERDC lets out.

The connector is a project that has been long overdue, and can provide a necessary artery for residents who want to find a quicker way to get across town. Here’s hoping a contractor is hired quickly and the road soon becomes reality.