HARRISON COUNTY (WLOX) -- Imagine driving from the Interstate in Gulfport to Saucier and hitting only two stop lights. Next week, that will be possible when a section of the new Highway 67 opens.
MDOT officials say starting either Tuesday or Wednesday, a ten mile stretch of the road will be ready for traffic. That means drivers who get off I-10 at Cowan Road will be able to head up Highway 605, then continue north on the new 67 heading to Highway 49 in Saucier.
Crews spent Friday getting the northern section the new highway ready for drivers. MDOT officials say there is still shoulder work and striping to do and signs that need to go up. The new 67 has four lanes, plus bike paths.
Though the road will be open to traffic, some finish work must still be completed, so drivers will need to careful around construction crews.
MDOT Project Engineer Gabe Faggard said, "We will be open to four lanes of traffic except at the very south end near the intersection of Highway 605. That area will remain under construction so that we can put the final touches on that segment."
Those finishing touches are expected to take two months. By next year, the rest of the new Highway 67 will be open. A section of Highway 67 south of Highway 605 is under construction. It will eventually connect to where Highway 15/Interstate-110 meets Interstate-10 in D'Iberville making a vital new north-south connection.
MDOT says it will spend $37 million on that part of the highway. When the work is finished, drivers will be able to get to and from places like Biloxi and D'Iberville in East Harrison County to Highway 49 in Saucier much faster.
Seven different contractors are building the southern half of Harrison County's new Highway 67. MDOT says all seven are based in Mississippi. That's something crews from Landmark Contracting in Gulfport say they appreciate.
"It means that we don't have to travel a lot," said Lynn Lott of Landmark Contracting. "At the rate that gas is now, that means a lot for us to stay down here and work for the state of Mississippi."
MDOT says this section of Highway 67 creates four lanes from the 605 interchange down to I-110.
Southern Highway 67 Project Engineer David Seyfarth said, "Right now we're in the paving portion of this job. We've got a little bit of earth work and some concrete work left. But primarily what's left to do is some of the shoulder work and paving is the biggest portion. "
Eventually crews working on the southern end will connect in with work north of Highway 605.
"They've already built the four lanes down to the south and kind of terminated those,"said Seyfarth. "It's just a matter of paving up and connecting the dots."
Seyfarth when all 20 miles of Highway 67 open, it will double as a vital evacuation route, making travel more convenient and encouraging new areas of development
"Right now there's a lot of growth on the coast," Seyfarth said. "There's a lot of things happening and this is just going to fuel that. I mean, it's really going to open up new avenues of travel in and out of Biloxi and Gulfport. It kind of brings this whole area, kind of brings it closer in. As travel times go down, people can go farther out, so it kind of fuels itself for growth."
MDOT officials say all of the new 67 should be finished in February. The speed limit on the new road is 65 miles per hour.