OUR OPINION: More highway news strengthens outlook

By NEMS Daily Journal


More encouraging news about highway construction in Northeast Mississippi came Monday from the Transportation Commission’s northern district headquarters in Tupelo, and most of the updates show long-anticipated road work in or about to enter final phases.
District One, commonly called the Tupelo district because of its headquarters location, includes major projects on highways 9, 6, 15, 30 and U.S. 45.
• One of the most important projects nearing the final phase is the new Highway 6 from Tupelo to State Road 342, east of Pontotoc. The completed link, for which a paving contract is set to be let in early 2012, will create a four-lane highway from Tupelo to Batesville, and in about a year it will connect to new Highway 9 near Pontotoc, another four-lane road.
The grade, drain and bridge project on the relocated Highway 6 near the Natchez Trace Parkway to highways 45 and 145 in south Tupelo is approximately 83 percent complete, with completion expected in December. The $29 million project will open new land for residential and commercial growth and safely speed traffic linking Tupelo, Pontotoc and Oxford.
• The frequently discussed four-laning of Highway 15 – which dissects the heart of furniture manufacturing in the region – is under construction in Union County from near King’s Creek, just south of New Albany to North Haven, on the northern edge of New Albany. The $18 million project is about 55 percent complete.
• In addition, Highway 15 construction (parallel lanes adjacent to existing Highway 15) from North Haven to the Tippah County line has started. Plans call for completion of the six-mile, $5.6 million project in August 2012.
• The $19.1 million Highway 30 bypass paving project, from U.S. 45 to Highway 30 east of Booneville, which includes an interchange with bridges over U.S. 45, is under way. The project was let in September 2009 and is projected to be completed in September. The overall project is approximately 98 percent complete.
The Highway 9 project in Pontotoc County, started July 5, is 12 percent complete, and completion is expected in late 2012. The $87.5 million design-build contract is expected to produce the fastest major highway construction in MDOT’s history.
The rest of the highway story in Northeast Mississippi, of course depends on steady, additional funding by the Legislature, with the support of the next administration. Infrastructure produces jobs in construction, then in new development. Good highways pay for themselves in related, expanding prosperity.