Hwy. 7 expansion to start land acquisition

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Motorists can now see signs that the four-laning of State Highway 7 south of Oxford has advanced beyond the promise stage.
Survey stakes are visible along parts of the route, which is Lafayette County’s main north-south artery.
“Right now we’re gearing up to start property acquisition,” said Tony Sheffield, MDOT’s District 2 assistant engineer over construction. “We’ve got just a few areas staked right now. There will be crews getting out there after the first of the year and into the spring, staking and laying things out so the appraisers can see what will be needed.”
The project will add two lanes east of the existing roadway for about five miles from Belk Boulevard southward to the split with Highway 9 West, just south of the Yocona River. It also will reconfigure that junction, providing a flyover ramp for southbound traffic turning onto 9 West to go toward Bruce.
“It’ll be a lot safer route,” Sheffield said. “There will be a grade-separated interchange that’ll take out that little funky intersection where we’ve had so many accidents and several fatalities.”
Many residents of Water Valley and south Lafayette County look forward to the improvement.
“Once it’s done, it’ll be very nice,” said potter Mike Crowson, whose Spirit Song Studio is east of the 7 and 9W intersection. “The construction process isn’t going to be fun, but redoing that intersection will make life a lot safer for everybody.”
The project, which some residents say has been promised for at least two decades, is still years in the making. Sheffield estimated right-of-way acquisition will take two years, during which the design also will be finalized.
“We’ll have our maps and deeds turned in sometime in February, and then the right-of-way acquisition agents will hit the ground running,” he said.
“Right now our plan is to let construction in fall 2016,” Sheffield said. “You’re probably going to see a two- or two-and-a-half-year construction process, so the completion target date is spring 2019.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com