For Madison County, urban sprawl has been both a blessing and a bane. The tremendous growth in new business and residential developments has outpaced the capacity of the highway system.
The city of Madison tripled in population from 8,027 in 1990 to 24,262 in 2010, while Madison County’s population went up from 54,271 to 95,595 during the same period.
“This growth has included the development of more industry, particularly related to the Nissan manufacturing plant and its suppliers within the I-55 corridor between Gluckstadt and Canton,” states the South Madison County Transportation Study done for the Madison County Board of Supervisors by Neel-Schaffer, Inc., which was published in May. “This growth within the county has put a major strain on the existing roadways and intersections and has resulted in traffic congestion on many of the major routes.”
Mississippi Department of Transportation Central District Commissioner Dick Hall said there are not only problems with traffic congestion, but he gets flak from other parts of the state about why MDOT is spending so much money on Madison County.
“There are political problems when people ask why we aren’t making improvements in their area instead of in Madison County,” Hall said. “I explain we have to spend where the highest traffic is, and that is the Jackson metro area, the Memphis spillover and the Gulf Coast.”
Hall said state highway funding lags far behind what is needed. The state gasoline tax was last increased in 1987—29 years ago. Hall said the tax that was worth 18 cents a gallon in 1987 is worth only eight cents today.
“That auto you drove back then got 12 miles per gallon (mpg) and the one you drive now gets 25 and 30 mpg,” Hall said. “The only reason our revenues have stayed where they are is there are more vehicles. But the more vehicles you get, the more congestion you get. If I sound frustrated, it is because I am. We desperately have to do something about additional resources for our transportation infrastructure. It is an absolutely necessity. It isn’t a ‘maybe’ or ‘should we’.
“It needs to be done and it needs to be done now. It is a convenience issue, a safety issue, and it is a very important economic development issue. We aren’t going to have prosperity without a decent transportation system. We aren’t going to have safety and we aren’t going to have convenience.”
It is up to the Legislature to find more funding through a tax increase of some sort. The first thing comes to mind is fuel tax.
“We are so short of funds that the position we have taken is that our first priority is to maintain what we have,” Hall said. “We don’t have to money to go take care of capacity everywhere. A lot of high profile work going on is interstate work, and that is a totally different pot of money.”
Currently work is proceeding on the 1-55 project in Madison, and MDOT is replacing four bridges on Highway 51 north of Canton built between 1929 and 1935. Hall said they hope to have those projects up for bid in 2020.
“That is the soonest we can come up with the money,” Hall said. “These bridges were designed for a maximum use of 50 years. By time they are replaced, they will have been used for more than 90 years. That is an example of situations we are having right now statewide with existing infrastructure. It is in terrible disrepair.”
Another badly needed project is reconstructing I-55 from the Ridgeland interchange to County Line, and reconstructing the interchange, which Hall said “is going to cost big bucks.”
Hall said a good example of their inability to build new capacity is Highway 463 in Madison.
“When I first got this job 15 years ago, we were prepared to do a project of adding lanes on 463, but the Madison County Board of Supervisors passed resolution at that time and asked us not to do that,” Hall said. “Now here we are 15 years later and we don’t have the money to do something that desperately need doing.”
Madison County Board of Supervisors President Trey Baxter agrees it is hard to do the work needed within the confines of funding. One current project being planned is the four-laning of Bozeman Road. The section that needs expansion currently has 17,000 cars per day when 12,000 cars a day warrants four-laning.
“It is operating at 150 percent of capacity,” Baxter said. “We have some federal money through the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, about $4.5 million. The whole project estimated to come in around $16 million. We are going to ask the state for $3 million every three years. The first shovel won’t break the ground for 36 months while we get through environmental studies, engineering and right-of-way acquisition. It will be a 2019 or 2020 construction project.”
There are a number of other highway projects planned in Madison County.
“The county is on the hook for the majority of these projects,” Baxter said. “Obviously, we have a budget have to stick with. It is a struggle to keep up with our infrastructure needs due to the fast growth.”
Project planned include a roundabout at Stribling Road and Catlett Road. There are plans to build another 600 houses on Stribling Road.
“We are also putting in a turn lane at Yandell Road and Highway 51, We are adding a red light, turn lane and cul-de-sac on Distribution Drive. The cul-de-sac will allow 18 wheelers a place to turn around in this industrial park. We just overlaid Stribling Road and Gluckstadt Road, and the Highway Commission just overlaid Highway 463.”
Baxter agrees traffic congestion is hard on businesses, and on business recruitment.
“Business interested in locating in a specific area want to see a traffic study and the improvements that are going to be made in the future to be sure we can keep up with their demands,” Baxter said. “The tire plant in Hinds County wanted an interchange built before they would commit to building their factory. Transportation needs are on the forefront of economic development.”
Here is a summary of the projects in Madison County …
State Road (SR) 463 from Mannsdale Rd to SR 22- Mill/Overlay
This project is for mill and overlay work on approximately 8 miles of SR 463 from end of 5-Lane near Mannsdale Road to SR 22. APAC-Mississippi, Inc. won the bid. The contract bid amount is for $3,447,205.02. The project was scheduled to begin July 5, 2016 and the completion date was October 2016. Completed mainline paving and working on paving side streets and driveways.
Traffic Signals at Gluckstadt Road and Calhoun Station Parkway
This project will install traffic signals at the intersection of Gluckstadt Road and Calhoun Station Parkway. Lewis Electric, Inc. won the bid. The Contract Bid Amount is for $199,600. The project was scheduled to begin June 9, 2016 and the completion date is November 30, 2016. Project has been completed.
SR 463- Bridge Cleaning and Painting
The project is for the cleaning and painting of Bridge Number 1.5 on SR 463. The Contractor is Gibson & Associates, Inc. The contract amount is $127,210. Contract start date is May 12, 2016. Project has been completed.
US 51 Overlay from from North of Loring Rd to Yazoo Circle.
This project will mill and overlay approximately 6 miles of US 51 in Madison County. The contractor is APAC-Mississippi, Inc. and the contract amount is $2,020,769. Work began April 2016. Project has been completed.
I-55 from SR 463 to 2 Miles North of SR 22
The project is for mill and overlay work on approximately 12 miles of I-55. Dickerson and Bowen won the bid. The contract amount was $11,563,595. Work will begin in March 2017.
US 51 from State Road 16 West to 4 Miles North of SR 16 West
This project is for mill and overlay work on approximately 5 miles of US 51 north of Canton. APAC-Mississippi won the bid. The contract amount is $1,740,438. Punchouts (full depth repairs) have been completed and expect to start paving is expected to begin in mid-to-late October.