Highway 49 Turn Lane Could Be Drastically Altered

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The spot on Highway 49 where Gulfport officer Rob Curry lost his life Thursday may be drastically changed.

Gulfport's mayor just received the initial findings from a study that looks for traffic solutions on 49. The main recommendation is to replace the center turn lane with a boulevard that limits left turn access.

According to police, a motorist was crossing Highway 49 to get into the turn lane Thursday, when officer Curry's motorcycle collided with the car, and he died. A day later, a wreath sat in the post office's front yard, a tribute to the fallen officer. Just past the wreath was the site of Lt. Rob Curry's horrific accident, and countless other traffic tragedies.

Dotti Hayes has seen so many accidents in front of the post office, she won't make a left turn out of the parking lot.

"I come around this way. And then I can make a right turn. I don't make a left turn out of here," she said.

Mary Ann Lofton will make a left. But she's extremely careful when she does.

"I've been coming in and out of here for 15 years, so I kind of know you have to watch what you're doing," she said after pulling into the post office parking area.

Several months ago, Gulfport asked Gulf Regional Planning to do a study on traffic issues pertaining to Highway 49. Its initial findings recently came back. Mayor Brent Warr says the main recommendation is to rework the current turn lane down the middle of the highway into a boulevard.

"We're not going to get rid of it. We're going to manage it. Because right now, it's just a lane, and you can cross anywhere you'd like," the mayor said.

MDOT's Wayne Brown believes that whenever the state builds the Canal Road connector, Highway 49 traffic congestion will be alleviated just a bit. He also expects the recently opened Highway 67 near Saucier to take a few more southbound cars off the busy Gulfport road. However, Brown says there's not much else the state can do in Gulfport, because it's out of right of way space. So, it's widened 49 as much as it can.

Too bad, Mary Ann Lofton said, because she actually figured widening the highway was the only way to save lives.

"We want progress. It's just going to take some widening again, or doing some other things," she thought.

What those other things may be will likely be discussed by the mayor when he meets with MDOT and the city council. Mayor Warr said the Gulf Regional Planning report would be presented to the city council and MDOT officials in the next couple of weeks.