Business owners concerned about Hwy 49 median project - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Business owners concerned about Hwy 49 median project

By Jessica Bowman – email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi Department of Transportation is trying to make Highway 49 in Gulfport safer by installing new medians. But some business owners along the road believe the project may have unintended consequences.

"Instead of eliminating a problem, I think we may have created new ones," business owner Lamar Gray said.

The owner of Gray's Furniture Galleries said because MDOT is only creating a limited number of cuts through areas in phase one, between Russell Boulevard and Airport Road, it's doing more than just reducing his number of customers.

"U turns are going to be the biggest problem MDOT has ever seen in this area," Gray said.

Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines shares the same concern.

"It's going to be extremely dangerous that's not something our citizens are familiar with on highway 49 and I'm very worried about forced U turns," Holmes-Hines said.

MDOT Engineer Kelly Castleberry said after a study was performed, results show that due to heavy accidents in these areas it is safer for a driver to make a U turn than try to turn in the same lane as oncoming traffic.

"And there's a lot of head to head collisions, a lot of confusion when motorists enter that center turn lane, and this takes that confusion out," Castleberry said.

Wrecks are not the only concern local business owners have in the phase one area.

"Safety is very important, but we just don't understand why another cut through couldn't have been put in the middle of the corridor from Turkey Creek to Airport Road," Gray said. 

Gray said this creates an inconvenience for his customers. He said his business, and many others in the area are suffering and will continue to suffer if MDOT doesn't create more access to their businesses.

"I know it's hard on them, especially in the economic downturn," Castleberry said, "but once we get out of construction, we'll look at the traffic and we'll see how the traffic patterns work, and we believe that everything will work out."

Castleberry said after the project is complete, traffic engineers will observe the area for a period of time. A decision will then be made as to whether or not more cut through areas are necessary.

The project should be completed this summer.

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