ST. MARTIN, MS (WLOX) - Congested, confusing, dangerous. Those are some of the words that have been used to describe an intersection that leads to three St. Martin schools. Since Hurricane Katrina, Jackson County school leaders have been pleading with the county to make the area safer. The county has finally cleared the last hurdle to get the construction started.
Accidents and close calls are common where Old Fort Bayou and Yellow Jacket Road meet. Traffic comes at you from all directions, yet, there are only two stop signs. Bus driver Linda Harris has to steer through the busy intersection five times a day.
"Most times it's very dangerous, because you can't see. It's a blind intersection, because of the trees and the cars coming around the curve," said Harris.
Jackson County recently got the green light to straighten that sharp curve. Land has been cleared and utilities are being moved to make way for a project that would shift a section of Old Fort Bayou a bit to the north.
"You're going to it tie straight into Yellow Jacket Road. You're going to have a four-way intersection and it's going to have a traffic signal there that will replace the stop signs, so you're going to have a safer environment," said Jackson County Supervisor Troy Ross.
Jackson County school leaders pushed for the project, because the intersection is the only way in and out for St. Martin High, the Middle School, and Upper Elementary. The biggest hold-up was having to meet EPA regulations for relocating a nearby bridge and acquiring right of way.
"When we saw them start moving the trees, we said, 'Oh, they're finally getting the project underway!' So we're looking forward to it. Our people are looking forward to it. It's going to make everything out here much safer, and we're just real excited," said St. Martin Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michael Van Winkle.
"It will make a big difference and it'll probably cut out the accidents that occur there," said Harris. "I don't live far from here and for me, I have my own children in my vehicle. I'm very excited about them fixing this."
The project is expected to go out for bids in January. Construction could start in February.
"With the new schools being put there after the hurricane, it just intensified this problem. It's a critical project so I'm glad we're actually going to see some dirt move and the project completed here soon," said Ross.
The new intersection will cost about $2.2 million. Funding comes from Jackson County and the Gulf Regional Planning Commission.