Proposed closure of Wiggins intersection causing an uproar - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Proposed closure of Wiggins intersection causing an uproar

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Sixty-five residents showed up at the Western Sizzlin in Wiggins Thursday morning to voice their concerns to Transportation Commissioner Tom King about an intersection that could close. Sixty-five residents showed up at the Western Sizzlin in Wiggins Thursday morning to voice their concerns to Transportation Commissioner Tom King about an intersection that could close.
WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) -

An uproar over a busy intersection in Wiggins has the attention of Transportation Commissioner Tom King. Thursday morning, King met with 65 community leaders and residents about the Hall Street and Highway 49 intersection where numerous accidents have happened.

MDOT, community leaders, business owners and residents all agreed on one thing: safety is the first priority. But everyone had different opinions on how to make the intersection safe without hurting business.

MDOT has plans to close the crossover in the middle of Highway 49 to get to Hall Street so drivers heading southbound would not be able to access Hall Street directly from the highway anymore.

"Most of your traffic... is going, believe it or not, north rather than south," King said. "We don't want to impact or hurt any businesses."

Business owners set up the meeting with King to explain why that plan would be extremely detrimental to their businesses.

"Traffic, traffic is the deal," Wynn Alexander said. "If they eliminate part of the traffic coming off of 49, it deteriorates the value of the property we can sell. And we bought the property because it had good access to 49."

One by one, property owners stood up voicing their concerns. Then BJ Lewis stepped and said, "You're worried about your back pocket."

Lewis believes safety should be more important than making money. His brother is one of many who have been injured at the intersection. Since his brother's accident, Lewis has collected nearly 500 signatures on a petition to close the intersection.

"You have to ask for the moon and hopefully get a little piece of the pie," Lewis said. "I'm very satisfied with MDOT's proposed fix for the problem and I feel it will not affect the businesses."

Lewis, the mayor and other residents also believe speed is part of the problem and they asked MDOT to lower the speed limit from 65mph to 45mph, but King said it is not that easy.

"I don't have a problem really lowering the speed limit, but we have to go through some studies," King said.

King promised MDOT will review the plan to close the Hall Street crossover and find a solution that's best for safety and economic development.

MDOT's plans also include a new traffic signal at the intersection just south of Hall Street so drivers would be able to conveniently get to all the businesses. King said that should also get drivers to slow down with two traffic lights within a short distance.

King said MDOT should have a final decision in a month.

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