When Sondra Smith opened her Three Rivers Road gift shop three-and-a-half years ago, she had some reservations. "I was concerned about visibility in this area," the Gulfport merchant said. "But this area has grown with Crossroads Mall. And it has just been phenomenal the growth in this area."
An estimated 4,200 cars a day ride past the Three Rivers Road location Smith leases. The encouraging traffic count is why she just bought some land a couple hundred feet down the road to build her own store.
"Before in the past," Smith said, "I would have never dreamed building behind Wal Mart because it was such a dead area. But now that I see the traffic and the growth in Orange Grove, that's why we decided to build."
Gulfport is also about to build. A $5 million construction project will widen Three Rivers Road from Airport to Seaway, and Creosote Road from Highway 49 to Three Rivers. According to councilman Richard Rose, the city has been "needing to expand Three Rivers and Creosote Road for many years. And it's just now that we've been able to generate enough revenue to move this project forward."
Because this area of Gulfport has a mix of shops, restaurants and industries, cars, dump trucks and cement trucks often share the two lane roads. City leaders say widening Creosote and Three Rivers to five lanes will reduce the congestion that often builds up here, especially during peak hours.
"One of the things we need to do is be certain that we have proper ability to route the traffic," Councilman Sam Albritton said. "Creating circulars is one of the key things to traffic."
WLOX News did talk with one businessman in the area who questioned the need for the Three Rivers portion of the widening project. But Sondra Smith said she has no doubt the road work and her own expansion plans will triple her business.
The city will hold a public hearing March 6 at Bel Aire Elementary School. The meeting will give Gulfport merchants in the Creosote Three Rivers Road area a chance to ask questions before engineers finalize their road construction plans.