Highway 49 Construction Almost Finished

Road construction on Highway 49 between Saucier and Perkinston should be finished by the end of June.

Recent rains pushed the project back a bit, but the contractor remains on schedule.

Those in the middle of the road work are anxious for it to be over.

The final weeks of the massive project find lots of activity. Heavy equipment began moving dirt in the fall of 2002. The long running work has kept construction crews busy, tested the patience of drivers and at times frustrated local business owners.

"Actually, things are going real well. The road construction is going pretty quickly other than a little bit of rain. They're very accommodating toward trying to keep the intersections open, trying to keep things clear. So, it's actually going real well," said store owner Patti Ragsdale.

She's the third generation owner of the popular McDaniel's General Store in McHenry.

Construction workers have provided a business boost by spending their money here. Plus, Ragsdale says crews have been aware of the concerns about access.

"Occasionally they'll have to close it down for a few minutes and do a little work. But they open it right back up again and try to make it as smooth as they can for people to come and go," she explained.

Once finished, the already busy highway will be both safer and better able to handle the increasing traffic.

Wayne Brown is Southern District transporation commissioner.

"The safer a highway is, the more capacity or the more cars it can carry. And so that's been a big part of it too," Brown said.

More cars means more customers finding their way for a seafood or cheeseburger po boy at Lloyd's Cafe. The new owners took a chance by opening the business just a few months ago.

"We came into it in the middle of the highway construction. But we're in it for the long haul. Like I said, hopefully when the highway opens up, everything will pick up," said restaurant owner, Gary Bunch.

If the weather cooperates, things should be picking up in less than six weeks.

Commissioner Brown says the contractor is prepared if a hurricane should threaten in early June. If that happens, the road could be opened temporarily to four lane traffic.