By Errol Castens
OXFORD – Old Taylor Road’s interchange with State Highway 6/U.S. Highway 278 reopened Thursday with extra lanes in nearly every direction, which officials hope will eliminate the bottleneck that it had often been in the past. The interchange serves as one of the busiest entrances to the University of Mississippi.
While dirt work and staging started in March, Talbot Brothers of Nesbit, the contractor, accomplished most of the actual construction after the University of Mississippi’s Spring Commencement on May 10. Highway 6/278 traffic was often routed to one lane each way, but it
“The Department built the project such that we intended for Old Taylor Road to be only shut down during the summer months,” said Mississippi Department of Transportation District Engineer Mitch Turner. “Given that directive, the contractor was able to do as much of the work as possible under traffic through the spring and get the bridge, roundabouts and exits built this summer. It was a well-coordinated project.”
While the contract had a drop-dead date of Aug. 15 to reopen the road and the interchange, it also gave Talbot Brothers incentives to finish early. Some work that would not have required traffic closure was scheduled to continue into November, but nearly all of that is also complete.
“There will be some secondary things, like the establishment of grass and erosion controls,” Turner said. “Things will have to be kept up for several months yet until we have a substantial cover of grass.”
Mike Harris, director of transportation and parking at Ole Miss, said the most immediate impact will be on university employees who live down Old Taylor Road.
“It’s going to make it simpler for them,” he said. “Obviously, when the kids start moving back it’ll be a tremendous difference. It’ll also help with the transit system so they don’t have to use that cut-through road.”
Ron Biggs, manager of Oxford-University Transit, said OUT buses will probably move back onto Old Taylor Road today. When Ole Miss is in session, nearly 40 buses a day run the Green Route between the campus and several student housing complexes south of the bypass.
Harris said Oxford’s first dual-lane roundabouts will take some adjustment from drivers.
“It’s going to have a bit of a learning curve. It’s different; it’s new,” he said. “Now is a perfect time for people to get out and get acclimated to it.”