Latest federal stimulus plan could fund new Mississippi road projects

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Dodging construction zones is part of the daily commute for many South Mississippi drivers. There is good news concerning one major project. In just a few months, the widening of I-10 from just east of the Highway 609 Bridge to the I-110 will finally be over. However, MDOT wants to continue the widening work.

"We would like to keep widening the interstate from exit 609 all the way to Highway 57, an additional lane in each direction," said MDOT District Engineer Kelly Castleberry.

Funding for the project, hinges on whether Congress approves the President's $50 Billion stimulus plan for transportation needs. President Obama rolled out the proposal on Labor Day.

"We have a lot of projects that we'd like to do, a lot of maintenance that needs to be done.  We can definitely use the extra money," said Castleberry.

The extra money would be spent mainly on paving projects. MDOT wants to overlay Highway 613 in Jackson County, Highway 90 in Ocean Springs from Vermont Street to Highway 57, and sections of I-10 from the Gulfport city limits to the Long Beach exit.

Also on the priority list is installing electronic message boards along I-10 and major highways. The funds would also be used to build a Regional Traffic Management Center in Lyman to control the timing of signals and monitor traffic flow across the Mississippi Coast.

"We can get motorists around any detours," said Castleberry. "If there's an Amber Alert, we can post it, hurricane evacuation. It'll be an information system that will go out to motorists to help them out."

MDOT leaders say if the federal dollars trickle down to Mississippi, it would get people on the road to jobs, plus, help move traffic.

"In order to relieve congestion and try to move people. I always like to tell people if you don't see orange barrels in your neighborhood, your tax money's going somewhere else," said Castleberry.

MDOT engineers say they hope this time around, there won't be such a tight deadline to spend the money. With the first stimulus program, states had only six months to get contracts out for bids. MDOT leaders say they need at least two years. That will give them extra time to work on larger projects, like building new roads and bridges.

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