GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - A narrow, dangerous road in Gautier that's taken more than a decade to be widened, is slowly on its way to getting a much needed makeover. Tuesday night, council members were expected to give the green light for the city to acquire right of away in the area so improvements can begin.
Many drivers in Gautier have complained for years that Martin Bluff Road is a very congested and constricted two lane thoroughfare with no sidewalks. More than 4,000 people travel the road every day, including students and staff at the local elementary school.
"The roads are really narrow and it is very difficult sometimes when you get stopped behind a bus you are stuck for 30 minutes at a time," Martin Bluff Teacher Christin Burlison said.
"We allow our children to get dropped five minutes earlier than most schools just to help with some of the traffic control and help parents to get to work on time," Principal Victoria Hoover said.
Some residents said the road is also very dangerous.
"We have had accidents right in this area," a resident said.
"Everyone who is living north of the Interstate has to travel this same road and it is dangerous. We had several fatalities in the mid 90s," City Manager Samantha Abell said.
Since then, Gautier has worked to expand the road and add turn bays, but officials said the project never really got going.
"From 2004 to 2010 there were some starts, but not much had happened. In 2011, we were able to hire an engineer and in 2012 we went into our conceptual planning meeting with our citizens and it was the citizens who said, 'We would like to see a sidewalk,'" Abell said.
The mayor and council have now acquired the funding and support needed to make the road safer.
"This evening the council will be approving the company that will start with the right of way acquisition phase; this phase will take about a year. The project is fully funded, so we estimate it will take two to three years until the project is well under construction. I am committed to making sure that happens while this council is in term," Abell said.
Drivers who live and work in the area look forward to the road makeover.
"There are a lot of small children and the area is growing so we need that," a resident said.
The $12 million makeover will be done in two phases. It will include widening the road from Gautier-Vancleave Road all to Martin Bluff Elementary. The second phase will take the road widening project from the school to the Hickory Hills area. Sidewalks and turning lanes will also be added.