By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – A few weeks remain before motorists can take advantage of the time savings of using the new Highway 30 bypass around Booneville, but officials gathered Tuesday to cut the ribbon on the $54 million project.
The Mississippi legislator and Prentiss Countian whose name is closely linked with improved highway access across the state – House Speaker Billy McCoy – also was instrumental in bringing this project to fruition.
McCoy, Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagart, U.S. Representative Alan Nunnelee, State Sen. J.P. Wilemon, Booneville Mayor Joe Eaton and Prentiss County Board of Supervisors President Mike Huddleston were among about 50 people who gathered at the Highway 145/Highway 30 bypass interchange to mark the occasion.
“This is a great opportunity for this part of the state,” Tagart said. “Not only is the improved infrastructure important for economic development, but it is important for safety, the lives that will be saved in the future that we’ll never be able to quantify.”
The project includes overpass interchanges, at-grade intersections and an extension of Highway 364 across Highway 30 east to the new bypass.
Improved safety will be particularly notable to the volunteer fire departments and first responders who will have a shorter route to the site for emergencies, Huddleston said.
Eaton was on the Booneville Board of Aldermen in 1994 and worked with former Mayor Wade Lambert and other city officials who collaborated with county and state officials to bring the project to fruition.
“It takes time, resources, patience and planning to make something like this happen,” Eaton said. “I thank the people who lived along this route for their sacrifice in making it possible. It not only will improve safety, commerce and economic development, but will make a real difference in the progress of Prentiss County.”
As McCoy brings his 32 years of service in the Mississippi Legislature to a close, Nunnelee noted that his role in leading the push for the 1987 four-laning program, like this current highway project, has a direct link to job creation.
McCoy recently called the highways program one of his most visible achievements.
“To attract jobs you need infrastructure that includes education, transportation, public safety and public health, and now Mississippi can compete with any state and any nation for those jobs,” McCoy said.