S. Frontage Road expansion waiting on relocation of utilities

Published 10:57 am Monday, June 5, 2017

Utilities relocation, the final project before the Mississippi Department of Transportation can extend South Frontage Road, should go out for bids in late summer, said Pablo Diaz, executive director of the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce.

“We are looking at the middle of August to go out for bids to relocate the utilities,” he said. “Once that is lined up, we will notify MDOT when that is expected to be completed, and then we will try to work with MDOT to develop a timeline for the bidding for the (expansion) project.”

He said Waggoner Engineering of Jackson, the project engineer for the relocation, is preparing the design for the project. The work was delayed while the engineers waited for direction on the project from MDOT.

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The South Frontage Road extension, which will link the Outlets at Vicksburg and other restaurants and businesses on East Clay Street and U.S. 80 to the west side of South Frontage Road, has been discussed for more than 20 years. Project plans call for an overpass over the Kansas City Southern railroad tracks to link the east and west sides.

In 2007, a Federal Highway Administration study on the project issued a “finding of no significant impact,” clearing the way for the project. Four years later, the Mississippi Department of Transportation bought five properties along the road to secure rights of way for the project, and in April 2014, the Legislature approved $4 million in its fiscal 2015 highway budget to begin planning the South Frontage Road expansion. The Legislature later allocated another $18 million toward the project.

The expansion project has also influenced Innovative Leisure Partners, a Texas-based company, to build a water park on the eastern end of South Frontage Road by the Outlets of Vicksburg.

The park is expected to create 12 full-time and 300 part-time jobs and earn more than $1.4 million a year, attracting 1.4 million visitors over 10 years with a projected total economic impact for the city of $1.195 billion by 2025, with a direct spending impact of $102.6 million over the same period.

Although work was expected to begin in 2017, no date has been given for when construction will start.

The park is expected to open in 2018.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the project’s investors are waiting to learn when the contract for the expansion will be let.

“They want a definitive position that the road is going to be built, because that road is going to be a tremendous asset,” he said. “They (the park and the road) work hand-in-hand. The road provides easier access.”

Opening South Frontage Road, Diaz said, should help traffic in the area, “Certainly out on the interstate, which is going to increase safety, I’m sure, as people in the community and crossing the community move throughout the interstate.”

“I think there are advantages for commerce with existing tenants, and I think it will be more conducive to us to add more commercial development,” he said. “Once you get the connector, it’s going to help the entire frontage road.

“We will have to continue to work closely and push in every way we can to get MDOT to move forward on the project. The money has been allocated, but MDOT does have a lot of initiatives on their plate. We want to continue to push to make it a priority.”

Diaz said the long-term strategy is to have “a more inviting exit off the interstate into the shopping areas of Vicksburg, and I think this would help with that, because it would make it different options to come into the shopping area and easier to get into the shopping area.

“The curb appeal is something that we want to work on, so from the interstate it is more attractive to come into and shop,” Diaz added.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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