August 12, 2016 11:29:19 AM
I happened to be stuck at the intersection of Highway 12 and Louisville Street this week waiting on the light to change when I noticed the beginnings of next year's headache. Normally I would be checking my email or Twitter while I waited, but instead I ended up watching a cluster of six men in reflective MDOT (Mississippi Department of Transportation) vests studying what appeared to be plans and maps.
I presume what I was watching is the beginning of the "daymare" that will be the Highway 12 MDOT renovation. These gentlemen were clearly intent and purposeful as they dodged cars at the busy intersection that day.
I don't mean to suggest the project won't be a good thing. It isn't that I think we don't need it; it is more about the impact this prolonged construction effort will have for all of us who use that highway frequently. We need to be prepared to be patient and use alternate routes to Kroger and Walmart, at least for next year anyway.
Last year, Northern District Highway Commissioner Mike Tagert announced a two-year reconstruction and redesign of Highway 12 with construction beginning in 2017. The Starkville stretch of Highway 12 is one of the most dangerous and accident prone of all the state owned highways.
In order to reduce the number of accidents, incidents and fatalities along that stretch, MDOT is going to create medians, add and coordinate traffic lights, provide U-turn opportunities and restructure the access points all the way along Highway 12 from Old Highway 12 to the University. In other words, this is a huge project.
The average number of trips along that stretch is 26,000 per day, significantly higher than Highway 45 Alternate in West Point and Highway 45 in Columbus.
Commissioner Tagert has been and is a good friend to Starkville and the Golden Triangle. He proved that when he was the driving force behind the makeover of Highway 182. That project has made a huge difference in the perception and look of that area of town.
Tagert once again has shown he is doing his best to meet the needs of the businesses by keeping the disruption to a minimum. In order to make the construction as palatable as possible, they doing all the work at night. It certainly won't all be whisked away and invisible by morning, but that concession will reduce those hardships as much as feasible.
There is no denying the immediate fiscal impact. When the Louisville Street project was underway a few years back, the cost to my business was dramatic. My vacancy rate doubled. No one wanted to fight the construction traffic and so they avoided Louisville Street during that summer's prime renting season.
My business is back and better than ever. Louisville Street provides a better environment for doing business, but there is no regaining those dollars from that business interruption. That project, like this one, was a "for the greater good" situation. Public safety and welfare are first and private sector profits are second.
That is a priority we can all live with.
Tagert indicated that they will be letting the bids in November. The actual construction begins in 2017 at the westernmost end of the project with a new traffic signal at the intersection of Highway 12 and Old Highway 12. The first year will end at Eckford Drive. That's a long stretch of road and an ambitious plan.
In 2018 when it picks up again, it will start where it left off at Eckford Drive and move east. The final section ends at the University. Weather and unforeseen circumstances can always alter timing for construction but with any luck at the start of the school year in 2018 Highway 12 will be a much better road leading into Starkvegas.
Now if we could only get the landowners to reconsider the business improvement district (BID) and make it pretty while they are at it. It's not too late to take advantage of the opportunity.
Lynn Spruill, a former commercial airline pilot, elected official and city administrator owns and manages Spruill Property Management in Starkville. Her email address is [email protected]
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