Rupert Howell editorial 4/22/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Other than bridges, scant highway work ahead for Panola

A public hearing with Mississippi Department of Transportation engineers last Thursday concerning a four-year plan drew few citizens. Very few.

My feeling was that there was nothing controversial within the report concerning Panola County or the area. Matter-of-fact, there was little in the report at all about Panola County.

The report included federal projects, and most of the federal money in this district is going to Desoto and Marshall Counties’ road projects connected to I-69, 269 and 78.

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Those projects’ advancement and completion may throw more truck traffic to our Highway 6/278.
The current problem is outdated bridges on that route between Batesville and Clarksdale has truck traffic avoiding the area. The bridges are either too short, too narrow or rated too low for some of today’s loads, according to District Engineer Mitch Turner.

He explained that although the major amount of federal dollars will be spent to our north, the Batesville to Clarksdale bridge improvement will be a major emphasis for the District Highway Department.

A major project was sensed in a proposed bypass, but that project was shelved and may never the see the light of day.

Turner explained that part of the problem was MDOT’s method of funding, in that they receive the same amount of tax revenue per gallon as they did in the 1960s. Inflation and better fuel mileage have kept that number almost stagnant while the cost of doing business has since grown in multiples.

Other than regular congestion during some business hours on Highway 6 in Batesville, our local state roads appear to be well maintained with needed improvements to surfaces, interchanges and facades being completed as needed or when possible.

Other than Highway 6 west bridge improvements, major projects are way down the line—unless drastic changes occur.