Many drivers in Jackson County will be relieved to hear this news. Supervisors have given the green light to a project that will fix a very busy and dangerous intersection on Highway 609. The changes will make the intersection safer for drivers and for the hundreds of people who live nearby.
You could see the close calls where Old Fort Bayou Road meets Highway 609. Just north of that hectic intersection, cars were pulling out of The Reserve at Gulf Hills apartment complex, while vehicles were trying to turn into the property. All of them were fighting for a tight space in the turn lane on 609. School buses were also turning at that intersection to get to three St. Martin schools.
"Your heart is racing. You're taking a risk," said Debra Myers.
Myers has seen her share of head-on crashes and rear end collisions at the intersection. She is the property manager of The Reserve, which is home to between 700 and 800 residents.
"Last year, we actually had two of our residents die out there. They weren't involved in a vehicle. They were actually crossing the street. I do feel like it's due to the high rate of speed and the high volume of traffic and the way the whole intersection is configured that kind of contributed to that," said Myers.
To help alleviate some of the traffic headaches for its residents, this year, the apartment complex spent more than $100,000 to build a second entrance on the south side of the property. Still, the people who live and work there want a more permanent solution.
"This has been a trouble intersection we've seen for years here in Jackson County. Recently we got it accepted by Gulf Regional Planning, so we're excited about getting this problem fixed," said Jackson County Supervisor Troy Ross.
Ross said about 60 percent of the wrecks in the area have come from northbound traffic on Highway 609 trying to turn into the apartment complex. Jackson County supervisors considered three design options to realign the intersection. The plan they approved would shift Old Fort Bayou Road slightly north and connect it to a new entrance to the apartment complex.
"I'm thrilled," said Myers. "This is something we've been watching closely and waiting for the final word to come down, and we're all jumping for joy. It's a situation of not having to take your life into your hands anymore."
Myers said the changes will help her keep her tenants and bring in more people.
"I've had people put in their notice and cite the reason they are moving was because the turn in and out is too dangerous," Myers said. "When I show a prospective tenant a property between the hours of 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., they don't lease because the traffic is just too hard to navigate and it scares them."
The next step in the process is to hire an engineering firm to come up with a final design. Actual construction may be few years down the road.
"Until we see dirt turn, it's really not that exciting. It is good to know that you're actually seeing some progress and are able to get something done to help folks," said Ross.
The project is expected to cost about $2 million. Funding will come from Gulf Regional Planning.
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