Patience urged as traffic clogs commuter routes

SALTILLO – The word of the week will be “patience” for people traveling near Northeast Mississippi schools.
Classes start this week in most of the area’s districts, with schools opening Wednesday in Tupelo and Thursday in the Lee County district.
The annual ritual means a change in routine not only for parents and students, but also for drivers who may encounter traffic jams, fender benders and angry motorists around school areas.
It doesn’t have to be that bad, say law enforcement officers who suggest that patience and consideration can help alleviate those stresses.
In Lee County, some of the worst traffic problems occur on U.S. Highway 45 heading to Saltillo Primary School. Because the four-lane highway is limited to one lane heading north and south, people going to work on the highway and those taking their children to school clash – some times literally.
And to exacerbate the situation, work is being done on a bridge on Euclatubba Road, which intersects Highway 45 near the school.
Marcus Jackson travels Highway 45 every morning on his way to his job in Booneville. He usually leaves home at about 7 a.m. in order to clock in by 8, but this week he plans to leave home no later than 6 a.m.
“It’s definitely hectic out there during the first few days of school,” said Jackson. “Last year, I made the mistake of leaving at my usual time, and I was an hour late for work. I had small children once and I know how it is to want to make sure they get the first week down pretty good, so it doesn’t bother me to be a little inconvenienced – at least for a few days.”,
Saltillo Police Chief Steve Brooks said most of his department’s traffic problems are at the primary school, where parents sometimes park their cars to walk their little ones in on the first day.
“When you have cars being parked in a small area and then you have cars backed up trying to get into the school, you have a lot of congestion,” said Brooks. “That’s why people have to be patient. It’s going to be slow, it’s going to be frustrating and it’s going to last for a few days. So people just have to adjust their travel time accordingly.”
Those taking their children to the primary school can use Sarah Ann Drive on Highway 145 as an alternate route to Highway 45, Brooks said.
In Tupelo, police Capt. Ikey Carmack said bumper-to-bumper traffic is expected at every school in the city Wednesday morning.
As in Saltillo, Carmack said his department’s officers expect the most traffic around the elementary and primary schools.
Those who normally travel near a school zone to get to work might want to find another route for at least the next couple of weeks.
“Try to avoid the school areas if you can,” said Carmack. “Maybe you want to go the way that you usually think is the long way because even though it may be shorter distance-wise to go near a school, traffic-wise it’s not going to be.”
Even though there aren’t a lot of traffic jams going into Tupelo High School on Cliff Gookin Boulevard, Lt. Tim Clouse said patrolmen usually have to respond to more accidents because people drive too fast and don’t pay attention.

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

Danza Johnson / NEMS Daily Journal