Councilman says there's a better route for port connector road

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi needs to move trucks more easily from the Interstate to the Port of Gulfport, so the state is trying to build a connector road.

Gulfport City Councilman Rusty Walker said he's mapped out a route for a new port connector road that's better than the path the state has now. Walker said his path saves money, won't add to wetlands damage and doesn't divide neighborhoods. But he isn't releasing the route until he presents it to the governor.

Some Gulfport residents talked about what they think about changing direction at this stage.

"They've bought houses, a church and everything," Gulfport resident Smiley Bolton said. "They have already pushed the route off. All they need is the road in there, so it's fine where they've got it at. Why change it?"

Changing the route to strictly existing streets, Walker said, will quash a perception in some neighborhoods that no one cares about their environmental concerns.

"We would be improving existing routes that need work," Walker said. "If the truck traffic ever increased to a point it was necessary, we could dedicate certain lanes to truck traffic. But now, we're building a connector road that has no plan for increase traffic for the next 15 years."

However, some Gulfport residents said they've gone through too many hardships by what's already been done to make way for the new connector road to see those plans change now.

For example, people who live on Bonita Drive said there used to be 20 houses on the property. Now it's vacant land. Neighbors said losing so many neighbors was difficult on the community.

When sections of streets went away, over time vegetation grew up in what were ditches. So neighbor said the streets where there are still houses flood more easily. They said they are also frustrated by now having only one way in and out of the neighborhood. So some residents said they don't want to get stuck looking at a large amount of overgrown property, and they want a road built to have something to show their inconvenience.

Still others told WLOX they did want the road rerouted. But whether they like or dislike the idea, no one seemed to think it would actually happen.

Rev. J.C. Wilks said, "For a person to come back now and say they want to bring about changes to what has already been planned, I think that's going to be kind of hard to do because it seems like they've got everything in place. "

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