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Flaggs to resurrect U.S. 61 North, South bypass projects

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. wants to resurrect projects to build bypass roads on U.S. 61 North and U.S. 61 South and extend Levee Street south in anticipation of getting state and federal infrastructure money in 2021.

Flaggs said he has heard an infrastructure bill may be among the first pieces of legislation introduced after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

“They believe that maybe one of the ways they can create some additional economic and (job) growth in this country is by creating an infrastructure bill,” Flaggs said.  

Flaggs said his information came from discussions with people he knows in Washington, including some who are expected to join the Biden administration. He would not single out any individual as his source.

He has also talked with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann about possible infrastructure bills in the 2021 session of the Mississippi Legislature.

Flaggs has asked Public Works Director Garnet Van Norman “to take off the shelf and dust off all the proposals that we’ve got that have never been funded that’s already been studied so that we can be prepared to present this to Congress and the 2021 Legislature.” 

“We have several projects that are shovel-ready; they just need funding,” Flaggs said. “All these changes in routes will create economic incentives for the city of Vicksburg and at the same time provide safety in Kings and keep the bigger trucks off our main thoroughfares.”

Flaggs said he plans to travel to Washington to discuss the projects with the state’s Congressional Delegation and representatives in the Biden administration.

Besides the U.S. 61 projects, the mayor wants to extend Levee Street to act as a bypass and remove 18-wheeler traffic from downtown. The road is mentioned in the city’s comprehensive plan, which was approved in 2015. No estimate has been given for the project.

Flaggs in 2016 proposed building a bypass road between U.S. 61 South to either Halls Ferry Road or Fisher Ferry Road as a way to relieve traffic on Halls Ferry Road and provide a second route for traffic from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center.

At one point the project, which was estimated at $10.6 million, was proposed as a possible secondary link to the Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi sports complex off Fisher Ferry Road and initial plans called for the road to start at Dana Road.

Flaggs later dropped the project in the face of opposition from residents who lived in the area of the proposed road.

The estimated $7 million 61 North bypass involves extending Haining Road east to U.S. 61 North to remove some of the 18-wheel truck traffic heading to the Port of Vicksburg from North Washington Street. Flaggs said the extension would provide a faster route for trucks going to the Port of Vicksburg.

“The Kings community will benefit greatly if we stop some of the truck traffic,” Flaggs said. “There is a study of the Haining Road project that we did when I was in the Legislature.”

He said the proposed Levee Street extension would begin at First East Street and run parallel to the Mississippi River to WaterView Casino.

“It creates another path for the trucks and moves them off the tourist attractions in the downtown Vicksburg area,” Flaggs said. “There would be no reason for them to come up Washington Street or any other street. It keeps them on the lower level and it will create a faster route.”

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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