By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Mississippi Department of Transportation engineers will start from scratch in the 12-year quest to improve safety and traffic flow at the Highway 6/Jackson Avenue intersection in Oxford.
The city’s aldermen and mayor traveled to Batesville last week to discuss options with MDOT officials, who have recently said that with land prices in the area, the proposal of an Interstate-style interchange and frontage road to replace the busy and often deadly intersection is not financially feasible.
Mayor Pat Patterson surprised the MDOT representatives with a proposal to drastically downgrade changes to the intersection and use some of the savings for other needed projects.
“What has been proposed is between a $40 million and $50 million interchange,” Patterson said later by phone. “That’s shooting a rabbit with an elephant gun. I’m pretty sure we can make that intersection safer while saving a great deal of money.”
The city asked that, in exchange for a less ambitious redesign of the interchange, MDOT agree to fund at least two other projects. Additional roundabouts at Old Taylor Road’s interchange with Highway 6 would improve traffic flow to the University of Mississippi campus and to several student neighborhoods. A two-lane road extending West Oxford Loop to Old Sardis Road would provide another commuter route for residents northwest of Oxford and additional access to and from the city-county sports complex at FNC Park.
Long proposed for that route was the ambitious Toby Tubby Parkway, a multilane highway that would eventually link Highway 6 West to College Hill Road and on to Highway 7 North.
“We don’t need a highway,” Patterson said. “We need a road.”
Richard Allen, the district engineer for MDOT, declined to add any details when he was reached later by phone.
“MDOT met with the city officials, and there were some proposals made,” he said. “MDOT took it under advisement, and we said we would get back to them.”
Another meeting is expected between representatives of the two entities in early June, Patterson said.