Reeves committed to working with MDOT on I-20 improvements in Vicksburg

Published 2:16 pm Thursday, March 2, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is the third and final story in a series featuring quotes from Gov. Tate Reeves’ Feb. 7 interview with The Vicksburg Post, during which Reeves discussed infrastructure, education and reelection in the state of Mississippi.

The Interstate 20 interchange system at Vicksburg is one of the worst in the country — Central District Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons has said so many times, and Gov. Tate Reeves recently confirmed the statement as well.

During a Feb. 7 interview with The Vicksburg Post, Reeves discussed his own experiences traveling on Interstate 20 through Vicksburg and clarified his role in any improvements that may take place.

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“I actually have some property near Eagle Lake and since I’ve been governor, I don’t get to go there nearly often enough, but that Highway 61 and I-20  interchange, like many in Warren County — the exit ramp back onto I-20 from Highway 61 is very very dangerous,” Reeves said. “We know that.”

However, it’s not as simple as waving a magic wand. The Mississippi Department of Transportation doesn’t report to the Governor, Reeves said, but his office has worked to foster a positive professional relationship with the agency.

“Fortunately, we have very good working relationships with both the executive director as well as all three commissioners, which has not always been the case, but we certainly do now,” Reeves said. “We are committed to finding ways to continuously improve those exit ways and in entrance ways from the arteries into and out of Vicksburg, including but not limited to Highway 61 and other areas.”

Reeves said he was in the area as recently as late January and ran into some of the same challenges residents and motorists report when navigating the interstate.

But it all comes down to money, and as the governor put it, completely fixing the Interstate 20 interchange system at Vicksburg will take approximately $1 billion.

“My understanding is that the Mississippi Department of Transportation has completed Phase A of the project, which is basically the environmental review, as well as a right-of-way plan,” he said. “It’s also my understanding that MDOT is working with Federal Highway Administration because these are mostly interstates and obviously, federal highways has a major role to play in determining the most efficient way in which to take this $1 billion total project and break it up into phases.”

Reeves said as soon as MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration complete their analyses on the most efficient method to divide the project into phases, more progress will be seen in the area.

“It is definitely a high priority for the department (of transportation) as well as my administration,” he said.