Transportation Commissioner gives update on infrastructure projects in Warren County

Published 11:28 am Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Central District Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons paid a visit to the Warren County Board of Supervisors on Monday to provide updates on infrastructure projects in the area.

Chief among those projects, Simmons said, is an ongoing study to determine the best solutions for the Interstate 20 interchange system in Vicksburg, which is considered one of the worst in the country. Although a prior study was conducted in the last 20 years, Simmons said a new study will be the first step to determining the needs of the area and securing the necessary funds.

Simmons also labeled Highway 27 “one of the most dangerous highways in Mississippi.”

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“You have some projects in this area that really do need our attention,” Simmons said. “Highway 27 is one of the most dangerous highways because as you well know, the way it’s built you have no way to get off. You have a lot of traffic from 18-wheelers and log trucks, but there’s no shoulders. As you grow industry here in the Vicksburg area, you’re going to have more of those trucks.

“We need to enhance that highway,” he added.

Over the next three years, residents can expect to see Highway 27 widened. The first phase of the project is already underway between the Natchez Trace and Morrison Road in Hinds County.

Another project under consideration along Highway 27 is updates to its interchanges in Warren County. Simmons also mentioned a $16 million repair project for two bridges along the highway. Hopefully, Simmons said, the Mississippi Department of Transportation will be able to fund those projects through ERBF, or Emergency Road and Bridge funds.

Thanks to Sen. Briggs Hopson and Rep. Oscar Denton, Simmons said, he has more money than ever to devote to projects in the Central District. However, he added, what is needed is recurring funds.

Simmons also took time to address ongoing issues with the Interstate 20 interchange system in Warren County. For years, he said, the system has been identified as one of the worst interchanges in the United States.

Several years ago under former Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall, a study was conducted to assess safety concerns along Interstate 20 in Vicksburg.

“You probably say, ‘Everything we’ve got is unsafe. What are you going to do about it?'” Simmons said. “We’re currently doing an updated study to look at the entire interchange system in the Vicksburg area, starting with U.S. 61 South and Interstate 20, which I think is the worst, going back to 27 and 61.”

The Flowers interchange is already under contract for repairs ahead of a new travel center opening across from Love’s Truck Stop. Simmons said the contract will be awarded in the early part of 2024.

Highway 465 will also see some updates, especially a bridge along the highway. Simmons said the bridge has not yet been closed, but it is dangerous and in the last two weeks traffic was reduced to one lane. The bridge will be replaced in 2024, he said, adding that he anticipates complaints from residents but the danger outweighs the inconvenience.

North of Vicksburg on U.S. 61, Simmons said he is looking forward to completing paving projects in Sharkey County between Anguilla and the Washington County line, and Anguilla and the Warren County line.

“This makes it easier to travel along 61 between Memphis and the Delta,” Simmons said.

Board Vice President Dr. Jeff Holland thanked Simmons for his efforts to see through projects in Warren County.

Other topics discussed by Simmons include: Updates to the Vicksburg Visitor Center on Washington Street, grass-cutting contracts and inmate work-release programs to combat litter in the area.