Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert speaks Monday to Starkville Rotarians at the Country Club on Monday. He updated club members on construction progress on Highway 12. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
August 29, 2017 10:20:42 AM
A large-scale infrastructure improvement project installing medians and updating traffic signals along the western and central portions of Highway 12 in Starkville should be completed by early November, Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert said Monday.
The project, which aims to reduce accidents and improve traffic congestion on the heavily used thoroughfare, will also overlay the road, increase turning radii at multiple intersections and provide some space for U-turns in the future. New signals will also be installed near the Highway 25 bypass and across from Dollar Tree, near Kroger.
Mississippi Department of Transportation officials originally planned for the first phase of the project -- from the intersection of Old Highway 12 to Eckford Drive -- to end before the Christmas shopping season begins in earnest.
Its second phase, which includes similar improvements from Eckford Drive to Spring Street, should begin next year and have a shorter timeline for completion.
About 25,000 cars travel Highway 12 each day, and Tagert acknowledged many drivers are experiencing delays and frustration associated with the work.
Those delays and construction issues should wind down over the course of September and October, he said.
"We're at the apex of the construction problems and the delays as we speak right now. The truth is you can't build a project like this without some inconvenience -- it's just impossible. I wish we had the ability to eliminate a lot of the inconvenience, but we don't," Tagert told Starkville Rotarians Monday. "Please ... realize the investment we're making with this project in our community, and I think you'll see it's very much worth it."
MDOT planners first began developing the project after a five-year safety audit revealed 1,664 accidents -- almost one each day -- and 500 injuries occurred on about seven miles Highway 12.
Most of the crashes were either right-angle incidents -- when a vehicle is struck while attempting to cross two lanes of oncoming traffic, cut into a center turning lane and merge with proper traffic flow, for example -- or rear-end collisions, Tagert said.
"That's why this route was on our radar so much: It has the highest crash rate incidents of any route with that kind of profile ... north of the Jackson metro area," he said. "That's not to mention what it means for EMS and for first responders. Their resources have to be dedicated to that route each and every day."
Installing medians will drastically reduce the number of right-angle crashes, he said, and the new signals, which will communicate to each other via fiber optic connections, will help with rear-end collisions associated with congestion by better moving traffic through the corridor.
"(Medians do) reduce those right-angle crashes dramatically, but they also improve mobility and the flow of traffic," Tagert said. "(Traffic signal communication is) so important ... in a town like ours where we have those peak (congestion) times. This is going to allow us to move so much more traffic in a more efficient manner than where we are today.
"What you'll see is a dramatic reduction in the crash rate -- that's what I'm looking for," he added. "I do think it's going to be beautiful; I do think it's going to be aesthetically pleasing; I do think it's going to help in a lot of ways that the corridor has needed for decades. But the more important thing is that when we fast forward four or five years from now, we're going to see a dramatic reduction in those crashes, personal property (damages) and injuries -- all those things that made this a necessity."
Most of the project's work will continue at night, when crews are afforded a safer environment with fewer cars on the road.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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