Highway 6 Four-lane

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 16, 2008

Four-lane gets boost from Delta Authority

By Billy Davis
Calls to four-lane Highway 6 from Batesville to Clarksdale are nothing new, but the long-touted plan was expected to get a boost Thursday courtesy of Clarksdale-based Delta Regional Authority.

At a planned luncheon in Washington, D.C., 45 members of Congress and their staff were expected to hear a pitch from the DRA to pour money into the project to follow engineering work that is nearing completion.

The plan calls for adding a stretch of four-lane highway from Batesville to Clarksdale, and Clarksdale to Brinkley, Arkansas. That project would improve the transportation link between Mississippi’s Interstate 55 and Interstate 40 in Arkansas, said Pete Johnson, federal cochairmen of Delta Regional Authority.

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The improved highway will also link to the coming Interstate 69.

“If you look at north Mississippi from a regional basis, one of the last stretches to four-lane is from Batesville to Brinkley,” Johnson told The Panolian prior to Thursday’s meeting. “When that’s done, you essentially have a four-lane highway all the way from Atlanta to Little Rock.” 

A focus on improving transportation has been one of three main priorities of the DRA since 2005, and Thursday luncheon is the agency’s attempt to further the Delta Development Highway Plan. (The agency’s other priorities are health care and information technology.)

 The agency is proposing to build or improve 3,843 miles of highway in eight states, including 753 miles in Mississippi, at an estimated cost of $18.5 billion. Other states include Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee.

Describing the transportation plan last summer, Johnson told the National Press Club that the plan was finalized following “thousands of hours of work” by transportation experts who aided the DRA. The plan is modeled after the success of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s highway plan. 

The highway improvements would create an “additional loop south of Memphis,” which would allow traffic to avoid the congested Memphis artery, Johnson also said.

At the state level, Mississippi’s legislature most recently shot down a plan by the Miss. Department of Transportation to fund construction work on the four-laning between Batesville and Clarksdale, and six other highway projects around the state.

MDOT’s highway improvement plan, known as the Vision 21 Plan, was supported by state Rep. Warner McBride of Batesville, who requested $200 million as chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

McBride has said the funding plan died in a conference committee when the state senate refused to compromise on funding.

The state representative said this week that he plans to attend the luncheon.