EDITORIAL: Building for safety

Safety related to high traffic volume and a history of serious accidents drives the Mississippi Highway Department's decision to eventually build a bridge at the intersection of U.S. Highway 45 and Euclatubba Road in northern Lee County.

Grade crossings on busy, multi-lane highways by definition are more dangerous than overpasses because there's no separation of traffic at right angles.

Mississippi Department of Transportation Division Head Paul Swindoll of Tupelo said no grade separation always means greater chance for “conflict.”

The Euclatubba Road interchange is a strong example of what the public sacrifices when the Legislature reduces available highway construction funds. Swindoll said the bridge cold have been on a 2006 or 2007 construction path had funding not been reduced during Mississippi's financial squeeze.

As things stand, Swindoll said construction is on a 2010 path, with right-off-way purchases somewhat sooner.

The anticipated cost is mostly speculative at this point, but Swindoll said today's construction prices for similar plans suggest a project in the $3.5 million to $5 million range, depending on materiel and inflation.

Increasing traffic volume obviously will require additional planning for grade-separation crossings on U.S. 45, the main industrial corridor in Northeast Mississippi and a major growth area in Lee and other counties.

Everyone applauded the new four-lane U.S. 45 when it was built as part of the 1987 Highway Program, and most anticipated that safety improvements would be required as traffic increased and populations in towns along the corridor grew.