By Joe Rutherford/NEMS Daily Journal
Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert said Friday the new Mississippi Highway 9 from Pontotoc to Sherman should be completed and open to traffic by Sept. 17, 2012.
Construction started July 5 on the 12-plus mile four-lane, limited-access artery.
Tagert, in an interview with the Daily Journal, said the design-and-build contract with Eutaw Construction of Aberdeen is among the largest of its kind in Mississippi history. Eutaw was awarded the $87.5 million contract May 9.
A $90 million bond issue approved by the Legislature funded the project, which is on an enhanced/incentive construction schedule.
Tagert, elected in January to complete the unexpired term of the late Commissioner Bill Minor, said the design-build contract method costs more but starts delivering economic development and safety benefits sooner than traditional segmented planning, design and construction.
A public ceremonial groundbreaking with Gov. Haley Barbour and the Northeast Mississippi congressional delegation participating, is set at 10 a.m., Aug. 11. Tagert said details to be released next will provide directions to the site, which he described as “right in the middle” of construction.
Tagert also provided updates on other major highway construction in the region.
* A contract is scheduled to be let in January 2012 for paving the new Mississippi Highway 6 from Green Street in Tupelo to the Nixon community overpass of Highway 9 near Pontotoc. When completed, Highway 6 will be four-laned from Tupelo to Batesville.
* Construction is under way on four-laning Mississippi Highway 15 from south of New Albany to Falkner, north of Ripley in Tippah County. He described the segment nearest Falkner as quasi-complete. Important dates in Highway 15 progress extend through 2016.
* A bid opening for a new bridge on U.S. 78/I-22 in New Albany is set for late September. The bridge will be the most expensive upgrade for the future interstate in Mississippi.
Tagert also said he is open to discussions with Smithville leaders about a new Highway 25, but he said any changes would require legislative approval and that funding isn’t available for immediate work.