Jackson County community gets evacuation route

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - For St. Andrews residents like Tom Pietrangelo and Bill Kortman, a drive home can feel more like a maze.

"It was a real bottleneck coming around all those stop signs and making a left, stopping, making another left, stopping," Kortman said of his daily drive.  "Just a straight shot, that'd be good."

That straight shot is just a few months away.

The Jackson County Supervisors have started construction on major road improvements in the area.  According to District 5 Supervisor John McKay, they include a new road that will connect Fountainbleu Road with the intersection of Highway 57 and Old Spanish Trail.  That intersection will also be improved.

"There will be a traffic light placed right here [The intersection of Highway 57 and Old Spanish Trail]," McKay said.  "The Highway 57 extension will be widened."

The new road passes by the future Ocean Springs High School. The project is supposed to ease the increasing traffic while helping people evacuate in times of crisis.  Just north of it, a hurricane shelter is under construction.  The road will provide a clear and quick path to the shelter when every minute matters.

"There's going to be so much traffic in this particular area right here, its critical that we do these infrastructure improvements for hurricane evacuations," Mckay said. "Plus, the new school coming in here, with all the high school kids driving through here, we don't want any accidents."

McKay said the new road is elevated about 1 1/2 ft above the nearby Hamill Farm Road that sometimes floods during heavy rain.  McKay said it would take a major flood event to put the additional road underwater.

"In normal situations, normal hurricanes, it shouldn't flood," McKay said.  "There should always be a straight ride out."

While McKay said improved safety is the main goal, he hopes the area's economy will get a boost as well.

"It will allow for development around the school, allow development over on this side [of Old Spanish Trail] which has no development," McKay said.

"Hopefully, things will start building up again," Kortman said.  "There are a lot of homes out here for sale. Hopefully, there will be more traffic, and it would help because we'll get the population back here."

Pietrangelo agreed.

"The more people, the better it is," he said.

Officials said the road should open sometime later this summer.  Other projects in the area may take a little longer.  McKay asks everyone for their patience during construction.

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