| By John Howell Sr.
It will be a decade before Batesville motorists will find east/west traffic relief on Highway 6, but by 2017 traffic should be flowing over the long-parleyed bypass, Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) District Engineer Jimmy Dickerson said.
Speaking at a meeting of the Batesville Rotary Club last week and in interviews this week, Dickerson described the 8.04-mile project which will channel through traffic south of the current path of Highway 6.
The actual construction of the bypass, after planning, design, and right-of-way acquisition has been completed, will begin in fiscal 2013 with completion expected in four years, Dickerson said. When construction begins, MDOT engineers have allowed the option of constructing portions of the bypass as two lane, he said.
The bypass will be planned and designed with four lanes, and all interchanges will be constructed as four lanes, the district engineer said. However, if construction funds are inadequate, portions will initially be constructed with two lanes, with two additional lanes added later when funding permits.
"Batesville will still see immediate relief in its traffic, even with two lanes in some places," Dickerson said.
He described the bypass route as follows:
Departure from existing Highway 6 East route
Traveling from east to west, the bypass will leave the current highway west of the Good Hope Road/Highway 6 intersection at a "grade-separated intersection" to be constructed, Dickerson said. The intersection will be designed for safety, to "keep everything moving; you won’t have to stop and face traffic," the engineer said.
Mt. Olivet Road
From its eastern starting point, the bypass will veer to the southwest, crossing Mt. Olivet Road with an overpass near the present Kyle Road intersection. The bypass’ first intersection will be constructed at Trantham Road, between Cotton Plant Road and Pine Lodge Road.
Further southwest, the new route will pass over Eureka Road near Will Road and Fog Road. The curving route of the bypass will then turn west-northwest towards Interstate 55.
Intersection with I-55
Continuing from I-55 in a west-northwesterly direction, the Highway 6 bypass will intersect I-55 between the interstate’s overpass of Eureka Road and Shiloh Road, Dickerson said. The interchange will include a cloverleaf design similar to the presented Highway 6/I-55 intersection except that the new interchange would be built to current safety standards which require longer acceleration/ deacceleration lanes than those built when the existing cloverleaf intersection was in the 1960s.
At Highway 51
No interchange is planned at U. S. Highway 51, Dickerson said. The close proximity of the I-55/bypass interchange on the east and the railroad on the west do not leave enough space to meet current highway design standards, Dickerson said. The route will continue west-northwest, passing over Highway 51 between the water tower which serves the Pope-Courtland Water Association and Victory Baptist Church.
Intersection with New
The bypass construction project includes the rerouting of Highway 35, beginning at the intersection with Shiloh Road and ending at Highway 51, just south of the current Flexcel building, formerly known as the Batesville American building. The Highway 35 intersection with the new bypass will be constructed between the current route of Highway 35 and Highway 51.
current Highway 35
The current route of Highway 35 between Shiloh Road and the existing Highway 6 railway overpass will revert back to the city or county, Dickerson said. The new bypass will cross over the current Highway 35 route near Walls Road, making necessary the removal of the existing Batesville First Assembly of God facility, Dickerson said.
"We agreed to listen to their proposal and negotiate with them," said Pastor Don Mullins of the Batesville First Assembly of God Church.
Reconnection with current Highway 6 West route
Midway between the existing Highway 35 and the intersection of Chapel Town Road and Highway 6, the bypass route will turn due west, rejoining the existing route near Wade’s John Deere.
What about Highway 6’s existing route?
Improvements slated for the existing route include making the current I-55/Highway 6 interchange safer, widening to five lanes from Bates Street through the railway overpass and replacement of the railway overpass, Dickerson said.
The short acceleration and deacceleration lanes need to be lengthened on the existing cloverleaf, he said.
A new railway overpass will replace the existing, narrow overpass, with a five lane structure correctly aligned with the approach route, he said. Dickerson said that there is currently no funding identified that would allow widening of the existing Highway 6 from the railway overpass to Chapel Town Road.
"Some of these projects have doubled in cost," Dickerson said about project.
Dickerson attributed the increases to Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath driving up construction costs as well as the increasing cost of fuel.
The Batesville bypass project has climbed to $84.7 million, making it the largest public works project in Panola County since the construction of Interstate 55 in the 1960s.