By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
During a report on state-aid road and bridge programs, Pearl River County Consulting Engineer Les Dungan told supervisors on Wednesday that Highland Commons Parkway is 95 percent complete, and within two weeks, barring bad weather, the new traffic light at Mississippi Highway 43 North and Highland Commons will be turned on.
However, at first, the light will handle only traffic coming off Highland Commons from Cooper Road. Travelers on Cooper wishing to access Interstate 59 will have to turn onto Wildwood Drive behind the Winn-Dixie and from Wildwood onto Highland Commons and then onto Miss. Hwy. 43N, thus by-passing the old intersection of Cooper Road with Miss. Hwy. 43N. Drivers who go to the old intersection of Cooper and Miss. Hwy. 43 will be able to turn right only. The crossover to the other two lanes of Miss. Hwy. 43N will be blocked.
Also, drivers will not be able to use the entire Highland Commons Parkway to U.S. Highway 11 North because a section of that road still needs paving, said Dungan.
A realignment of Richardson-Ozona Road, which will run behind the Picayune Item and abut head-on with Highland Commons at U.S. Hwy. 11, is also in preliminary planning stages and environmental review. The planning on the realignment involves wetlands and is complicated, Dungan said. Right now northbound traffic on U.S. Hwy. 11 cannot access the entrance to Richardson-Ozona Road, and must access it by taking Haydon Oaks just past the Super Soaker Express car wash from U.S. Hwy. 11 to Richardson-Ozona Road.
Dungan also told supervisors that since April of 2011, bridges on 13 roads throughout the county have been replaced through the use of the state-aid funding allocated to Pearl River County.
In response to a question from Supervisor Anthony Hales, Sr., Dungan told supervisors that since 1999, on average, about five bridges in Pearl River County per year have been replaced with state-aid funds.
The state-aid funds are state money parceled out to the state’s 82 counties to help with bridge replacement projects and upgrading and maintaining major farm-to-market roads in the counties, said Dungan.
The funds are parceled out by a formula, and Pearl River County gets about $1 million a year, or about $4 million every four years, with which to repair and install dilapidated county bridges and to upgrade and improve roads.
One Pearl River County project involved the replacement of a series of four bridges, one after the other, across the Hobolochitto Creek swamps on Burnt Bridge Road just past New Palestine Baptist Church. The project cost just over $2 million and was paid with state-aid road funds. “It was a major, and successful, project,” said Dungan.
The bridge replacement projects on the list given to supervisors by Dungan, some begun as early as April, 2011, and some ending in October, 2012, included bridge replacements on Pine Grove Road, Beach Road, West Union and Holden roads, Burnt Bridge Road, Archie Wheat Road, Humphrey Road, Homer Ladner Road, Holden Road, Oak Hill Road, Jackson Landing Road, Sones Chapel Road and Jacobs Road. Those are completed, said Dungan.
Projects currently underway being paid for with state-aid money include an ultra thin overlay, striping and signing on West Union Road and Caesar Road; bridge replacement on McCarty Island Road; countywide reseal involving six roads covering 16.9 miles; bridge replacement on Savannah-Millard Road; countywide striping and signing on three roads covering 16.6 miles; full-depth base reclamation job on Hillsdale Road; bridge replacement on J.M. Tynes Road; bridge replacement on J.J. Holcomb Road; bridge replacement on E.T. Poole Road; route assessment on Ridge Road; Richardson-Ozona Road realignment; ultra thin overlay, striping and signing on Savannah-Millard Road and West Union Road for 9.3 miles; countywide micro-surfacing on five roads covering 17.1 miles; bridge replacement on Barth Road; route assessment on West Union and Anchor Lade roads; and replacement of four bridges on Spring Hill Road. The Spring Hill project is a major one and will open up the rural road to be able to handle more traffic. Right now traffic is limited by bridge weight restrictions on the dilapidated bridges.
County projects, done with outside funding other than state-aid money, in some cases federal money, are:
— Completed projects include those associated with Hurricane Isaac: Ervin Ladner Road repair; damaged prime road repair, Sites A through H; debris monitoring; preliminary damage assessment assistance; and 2011 county road surface maintenance project.
— Under construction: Highland Commons Parkway access road; three storm-shelters, one each at Picayune, Poplarville and Carriere (an overall $9 million project); and in design phase: Go-Go Road drainage structure repair and Hurricane Isaac drainage structure repair project No. 2 sites A through C.
Officials are hoping to cut the ribbons on the new storm shelters on March 4 if weather cooperates.