EDITORIAL: MDOT’s investment

A bid opening set for 10 a.m. Tuesday will begin the final process leading to the Mississippi Department of Transportation erecting a new, multi-million dollar Tupelo and Northern District headquarters on the same site of the half-century-old operations building that’s become one of the city’s chief landmarks.
The Roy Clark Adams Headquarters complex is named for the late highway commissioner from Tupelo who held office when the existing structure was built in 1959. Its site is widely called “highway hill” by Tupelo residents. The address is 1909 North Gloster St., and it overlooks the interchange of two major four-lane highways – U.S. 45 and U.S. 78 – that were 28 years away from authorization when the building opened.
About 40 people work at the Tupelo offices, but that number will grow with the new structure because there will be room – and because some functions once performed solely in the statewide Jackson headquarters are partially shared with the Tupelo office for the district.
District Engineer Bill Jamieson said a design team, a right-of-way office and law-enforcement functions taken on by MDOT now operate out of the building.
We hope the expansion becomes an encouragement for MDOT and the Transportation Commission to further decentralize its workforce and administration from a monolithic office tower in downtown Jackson. Fast communications technology surely replaces the necessity of having planning, design and the supporting employees for the department concentrated in Jackson, 160 miles distant from the Tupelo (District 1) office. Similar district operations are sited in Batesville (District 2), Yazoo City (District 3), Newton (District 5), Hattiesburg (District 6 and Southern District) and McComb (District 7). The Jackson headquarters office serves as District 4 and for the Central District.
Jamieson said he expects additional bridge inspectors to work out of Tupelo because a construction program for bridge replacement has been funded.
Jamieson also said having engineering design teams for district projects in Tupelo simplifies and makes more efficient the process for building and repairing roads – even though final decisions are made when the three-member commission meets in Jackson.
Northern District Commissioner Bill Minor is one of only three elected chief highway officials in the nation. The other two are his political peers: Central District Commissioner Dick Hall, Brandon, and Southern District Commissioner Wayne Brown, Lucedale.
The new building will undoubtedly improve the working conditions for the Tupelo and Northern District staffs. We hope the commission examines how more district-specific functions can be moved nearer to where the work is done.

NEMS Daily Journal