D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi Department of Transportation is adding more traffic lanes to a very busy stretch of Interstate 10.
Preliminary work is underway on a $12,800,000 project that will make the interstate four lanes in each direction between I-110 and the Ocean Springs exit.
The widening project should be finished in about a year.
The widening is the first of several I-10 improvement projects in the works. And while drivers will certainly enjoy the long term benefits of less congestion in the area, the more immediate concern is safety in the construction zone.
M-DOT traffic counts confirm what I-10 drivers already know. The interstate could certainly use another lane between I-110 and 609.
"This area right here has enough traffic to warrant a four lane in each direction. One lane was added in each direction right after Katrina, due to the bridges being out. After a little analysis, it was determined that extra lane should stay because of the turning movements from Exit 50 and I-110 between those two interchanges," said M-DOT engineer Kelly Castleberry.
Preliminary work is underway near the overpass at the Ocean Springs exit, preparing for the year long construction.
"Right now, we're in the process of trying to get the asphalt down in order to shift traffic around so we can get to the actual work area," said Castleberry.
Those who wear the bright colored vests while working so close to traffic, have a serious request for I-10 drivers during the next 12 months.
"Just please slow down and be careful, 'cause it could be your life in danger. We don't want no accidents or no fatalities or no injuries," said Frank Mallette, with Mallette Brothers Construction, the general contractor for the job.
With the high speeds on the interstate, all it takes is a moment of inattention for things to get dangerous.
And that's exactly what happened there Monday afternoon.
"Someone run up on the traffic and wasn't paying attention and crossed the median and hit two cars head on in the west lane," said Mallette.
Drivers might as well get used to the warning signs and orange barrels.This widening isn't the only work planned for I-10.
"After this one, the next segment, which may be a couple years down the road, will be Exit 57 and then mile marker 62, the Gautier-Vancleave exit," said Castleberry.
Drivers should pay attention to the warning signs and expect lane closures at various times throughout the construction work. Weather permitting, the widening work should be finished by December of next year.