HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - In a time of economic slowdown, Hancock County leaders say a newly paved road could be what sparks a business boom. Texas Flat Road runs from Highway 603, just south of the Kiln, to Highway 607, slightly north of Stennis Space Center and minutes from Interstate 59.
Now days cars whiz down the nicely paved Texas Flat Road, but until recently, most people agree this was not the kind of road they'd want to cruise.
"When I first saw it, it was a dirt road with mud holes from one end to the other," said Wayne Brown, Southern District Transportation Commissioner. "You had to be really desiring to drive it to drive it. "
Hancock County leaders cut the ribbon marking the completion of a paving project they say they've been waiting for for waiting decades. They say a better Texas Flat Road can save lives by alleviating traffic on other roads and making it easier to get people out of harm's way should a hurricane threaten.
Lisa Cowand is a Hancock County supervisor.
"We've got to ensure that our citizens are able to exit our county safely. It's very important to us as we learned during Katrina. This will definitely give us another outlet, let the traffic flow more easily and safely," Cowand said.
Now that Texas Flat Road is an attractive route for Stennis Space Center's 5,000 employees to take for quicker access to Highway 603, officials believe business and residential developers will take notice.
"I think what Texas Flat Road is going to do is create another economic corridor for Hancock County and Pearl River County together,"said Hancock County Chamber of Commerce director Tish Williams. "So what we think we're going to see is an explosion of business development along 603, and this route up to the buffer zone."
"It gives developers and local residents hope for a brighter future in Hancock County along 603."
Southern District Transportation Commissioner Wayne Brown says the paving of Texas Flat Road came from a partnership between MDOT and Hancock County. He says the two are now working together to expand part of Highway 603 from two to four lanes.
"We're working with the county to widen 603 from just south of here all the way up and around Kiln where 43 peels off and goes to Picayune,"said Brown. "A very needed project. Some heavy congestion. A lot of fatalities. A lot of wrecks. A lot of congestion. A lot of frustration."
Hundreds of bikers rode down Texas Flat Road Sunday in celebration of its paving. Everyone taking part in the parade was asked to donate five dollars to help build a playground in McCleod Park in Hancock County.
Bikers say they rode in honor of Melvin "Bubba" Herbert who was killed in a motorcycle accident last year and all other fallen bikers.