By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Proposed upgrades to the interchange of State Highway 6 and Old Taylor Road drew both praise and concern at a Tuesday public meeting hosted by MDOT.
The proposal includes multi-lane roundabouts and addition of two traffic lanes and a bike/walking lane to the bridge.
Traffic is routinely bottlenecked on the Highway 6 off-ramps by vehicles already on the two-lane commuter route into the University of Mississippi. By 2016 Old Taylor Road also will serve as an entrance to a new Baptist Memorial Hospital.
Adam Johnson of MDOT said if approval is given, construction will begin in October 2013, with completion expected within 12 months.
“In the summer of 2014 they’ll close this down completely – ramps, bridge and all,” he said of the interchange. Instead, traffic will detour through the old Whirlpool Plant site onto Coliseum Drive.
Mike Mossing, chair of Oxford’s Pathways Commission, said the proposal will increase traffic at a time when national trends are toward less car travel and Ole Miss is cutting parking on campus.
“I think they’re doing this double-lane roundabout because they’re projecting from the last three years to the next 15 years,” he said. “But we’ve got a transit system that we didn’t have before, and the university is going to … do everything they can to encourage students to ride the bus.”
Steve Ward, who owns two retail businesses on Old Taylor Road south of Highway 6, said the roundabouts are “a better plan” than the current configuration. He urged that MDOT arrange the Whirlpool detour long before it is required.
Janet Kahlstorf of Tupelo, who owns a home in Oxford, expressed concern about the loss of one of her neighborhood’s two entrances to construction but is also concerned about accommodating pedestrian traffic.
“Just watching all the ball game traffic, there really does need to be a safe way for (pedestrians) to get all the way up that road, because presently people are out in the street,” she said. Oxford Assistant City Engineer Reanna Mayoral added that students also cross the bridge on foot every school day.
Mossing said single-lane roundabouts would be safer for pedestrians.
“Everyone can negotiate this at a higher speed than they can when they’re squeezed in like on the ones on South Lamar,” he said. “It’s going to be more of a blender situation, and it’s going to be higher-speed, higher-volume.”