June 18, 2010 11:44:00 AM
Columbus isn''t a major metropolis, but we do have a rush hour -- and if you''ve ever been caught on Highway 45 between U.S. 82 and Bluecutt Road, you''ve experienced it.
According to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, 27,000 cars and trucks travel up and down Highway 45 each day, between U.S. 82 and Mississippi 373, the intersection near the new Columbus Middle School site. Heavy commercial trucks accounted for about 850 of those vehicles. And, that''s a 2007 estimate MDOT says is increasing.
The state is offering three alternatives. Alternative A is to do nothing. Alternatives B and C are similar, though Alternative B requires slightly less business and residential relocation. The state doesn''t have funding for the project, and officials say any construction is at least three years away.
As a city, we want to grow. The bypass makes room for that growth. It opens up room for new businesses, and eases traffic for residents to get to them.
Of course, the bypass could have a detrimental effect. Some business owners along the stretch fear less traffic could mean less exposure for their businesses.
Others bemoan the loss of natural lands and farmland that will be plowed under by a new roadway.
And a real effect is visited upon those businesses in the path of the road (10 under B, 12 under C) and those homes that have it running through their living rooms (38 under B and 39 under C, not including 113 apartment units). Those business owners and residents would be forced to relocate.
The project would be messy and disruptive, as all public works projects are. But, we believe a bypass is necessary for the city to continue to grow.
We can only look to neighboring Starkville for an example of a city that hasn''t dried up because of a highway bypass. In fact, Starkville''s population is growing, while Columbus'' is decreasing, according to census estimates. Oktibbeha County''s unemployment rate is consistently lower than Lowndes County''s.
We''re not a one-stoplight town that''s going to go under because of a highway bypass. We''re a city that needs to continue driving down a clear path of growth, and a bypass would help.