MDOT seeks public opinion on Hwy 15 expansion

By Rebecca Powers - bio | email

D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - There is a big gap that needs to be filled. It's not cheap or popular, but engineers with the Mississippi Department of Transportation say it needs to be done.

Back in the 1960s, when Highway 15 was being built, the project ran out of money and steam and just kind of stopped.

The first of many public forums this week, was held Monday night in D'Iberville to give everyone a chance to see the possible corridors and give their two cents.

"This is a long process and we're at the very beginning of it," MDOT engineer Steve Twedt said.

As part of the "Vision 21 Project", MDOT must look forward 100 years to anticipate the needs of a growing population. They know they have to make Highway 15 connect with U.S. 98 all the way up at Beumont in Perry County.

"Highway 15 is supposed to be a continuous route from the Gulf Coast all the way to Tennessee," Twedt said. "Right now, 15 starts at 1-10 and 1-110 and it goes up to Highway 26 and it stops."

Filling that gap left in the sixties, would mean creating a four lane highway that could take as long as ten years to construct. The toughest part is figuring out where to put it while also having the smallest impact on wetlands, forests and humans. That's why they are asking for input.

"We're going to visit each community along the route and have a public meeting like this and show them some potential corridors."

Here are the three potential corridors. Option B would take Hwy. 15 straight up through Harrison and Stone Counties into Perry. But it would have to cut through the middle of the DeSoto National Forest

Option C goes through Jackson, George and Greene Counties into Perry. This one has a lot of homeowners in Latimer very upset, because a number of homes would have to go.

Option D would go through Harrison, Stone, George then Greene Counties, basically going East, around the national forest.

Walter Beard of East Biloxi likes Option B, that goes through the forest.

"I'm very concerned about the environmental conditions, but I am more so concerned about evacuation routes for natural disasters," Beard said. "I think it's just more of a straight alignment and would affect the least amount of people."

If you missed Monday night's meeting, don't worry, several others are scheduled this week.

Tuesday, August 11, 4-7pm
Latimer Community Center, 10908 Daisy Vestry Road 400, Ocean Springs

Wednesday, August 12, 4-7pm
Stone County High Gym, 400 East Border Avenue, Wiggins

Thursday, August 13, 4-7pm
Beaumont Community Center, 913 4th Street, Beaumont

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.