Legislative passage and gubernatorial support for a $442.9 million bond bill for state institutions and infrastructure includes $40 million for four-laning Mississippi Highway 9 North from near the Toyota plant at Blue Springs to the intersection with Mississippi Highway 348 – an improvement for safety and long-term development.
Gov. Haley Barbour reaffirmed his strong support for the project and its funding on Monday in an editorial board meeting with the Daily Journal. He stood by his and many other public officials’ view that the four-lane segment is needed to ensure safety when just-in-time deliveries from Toyota suppliers northeast of the plant begin after production starts.
Existing Highway 9 goes directly through Blue Springs and is considered inadequate to handle 18-wheeler traffic in large numbers.
The bond bill, it should be noted, does not include widening or four-laning of Highway 348 from Guntown to its intersection with Highway 9. That highway, Barbour said, is considered adequate for now. Highway 348 to Highway 9 is the preferred route rather than having trucks drive through Tupelo and the already congested traffic near The Mall at Barnes Crossing.
The proposed four-lane would become part of a new Highway 9 from near Pontotoc to Sherman, where it would link to U.S. Highway 78 and Magnolia Way, the access road to the Toyota plant at the U.S. 78/Mississippi 9 interchange just south of Blue Springs.
The Legislature, with Barbour’s support, provided $90 million in bond funds for the Pontotoc-Sherman Mississippi 9 segment in 2010.
Support for the four-lane segment isn’t unanimous. Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, is among the opponents because, he says, it will unnecessarily spoil the vistas of scenic land. Some residents and landowners are not in favor, or at least oppose the routes that have so far been proposed.
Nothing prohibits revisiting the routing issue. Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert could be helpful in re-examining routing, including more discussions with residents in and near Blue Springs.
We believe safety is the compelling issue.
The National Transportation Safety Board reports that in 2008, “380,000 large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds) were involved in traffic crashes in the United States; 4,066 were involved in fatal crashes. … A total of 4,229 people died (11 percent of all the traffic fatalities reported in 2008) and an additional 90,000 were injured in those crashes.”
The impact of “big trucks” on safety should decide the Highway 9 North discussions.
NEMS Daily Journal