PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - An ambitious road widening project could soon be underway in Pascagoula. City officials want to bring major improvements to Hospital Road, south of Highway 90. Safety is the main goal, but so is economic development.
Right now, the road is two lanes. The city wants to widen it to five lanes, with sidewalks, and bike lanes. Included in the plans are a median filled with native plants and shrubs.
Cars would have more room to move, but something else could happen, according to Community Development Director Jen Dearman.
"We're hoping that it will draw people down to south of Highway 90, pull people into these businesses, pull people into Old Mobile Highway and those businesses as well. We think it has a lot of potential," Dearman said.
City manager Joe Huffman said the plan would also level the monetary playing field in the city.
"We've spent a lot of money in other parts of the city. This is a commercial area that, really, we haven't spent a lot of money on in some time. And this is an opportunity for us to spend some money here to make some improvements," Huffman explained.
People who travel the road, like Andrea Johnson, approve.
"I think it's a good idea, and it will be safer. I got hit over there coming in to do the wash, so I think widening it would be a good idea and safer. And the bike path would be a good idea too because people ride, children ride."
Jennie Young is another. "I'm hoping it will help a whole lot. I come to this laundromat a lot and I've seen quite a few wrecks right here at this light happen, so I'm hoping it will eliminate some of that," Young said.
While city officials are touting the aesthetics and the safety of this project, business owners along Hospital Street have some concerns about the impact on their businesses.
Carlos Stallworth owns a barber shop. Acquiring the needed right of way for the project could hurt.
"This is going to take about five or six parking spots in the front of my parking lot, so it's going to be a big concern because I'm going to have to find some place for my customers to be," Stallworth explained.
Other business owners, like florist David Van Veghel, don't mind the change.
"Well, I'm okay with it if it helps the city of Pascagoula with the appearance of Hospital Road, especially because drainage has always been a problem here."
The cost of the project is estimated at about $3.3 million, with federal highway dollars paying for most of it. The city would have to come up with about $500,000. Construction would take about two years.
A public hearing on the project is set for Saturday morning from 10am until noon at the Pascagoula Senior Center on Live Oak Avenue.