Gulfport councilman thinks better lights on Hwy. 49 could prevent deadly accidents

Gulfport councilman thinks better lights on Hwy. 49 could prevent deadly accidents

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - One week ago, a pedestrian died after being hit by a Gulfport police vehicle in a dangerous section of Hwy. 49. Some believe it was only a matter of time before a crash like that happened, and one Gulfport city councilman is pushing for change.

The reconstruction crews from the Biloxi Police Department came back to the scene of the deadly accident Thursday. It was to more clearly map the area.

The department was asked to investigate the accident because it involved a Gulfport police officer.

In the meantime, Gulfport Councilman R. Lee Flowers is speaking his mind. He wants to do what he can to make that busy area north of Airport Rd. safer. He thinks better lighting can do it.

"Regardless of who all was involved, that was a senseless loss of life," Flowers said. "I don't know what better reason there is to get angry."

He said he casts blame on no one.

"I know we have an issue out there that didn't help the situation," Flowers said. "It's been a constant problem for years now, so let's fix the lights. It's a tremendously busy section of road. It's not pedestrian friendly, but to have the lights out in that area, it's even worse."

While some of the lights work, Flowers said that's not always the case.

The lights are not owned by the city. They are owned and operated by the Mississippi Department of Transportation, and street lights are low on the priority list.

"MDOT's priority for lighting, first and foremost, is the traffic signals and the drawbridges. They have priority over everything else electrical," said MDOT engineer Kelly Castleberry. "Then, after that, MDOT looks at the lighting aspect. Lighting is an esthetic feature. It's not required for roadways."

That, Flowers said, is unacceptable.

"They've left the cities, specifically Gulfport, looking bad, because our lights aren't on. People think we're responsible for all of them. They don't care who's paying the bill, they just know they are paying taxes and they should all be on," Flowers said.

Flowers wants MDOT to change the lights to LED, just as Gulfport is doing with those it's responsible for south of Airport Rd. Then, he wants MDOT to give them to the city.

Castleberry said it's a possibility.

"It would be on the horizon. I don't have a hard time frame right now when that would occur. MDOT would have to identify funding based on the budget that it is put forth during the appropriations of the legislature," Castleberry said.

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