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Construction Set to Begin on Interstate 59 Expansion

By Evelina Burnett | Published 24 Jul 2013 04:57pm | comments
Photo courtesy of Evelina Burnett/ MPB News

Mississippi transportation officials are getting ready to break ground on a road expansion project in coastal Hancock County.  The expansion will create a new and faster way for gulf coast residents to leave town when hurricanes head their way.

A crew puts up a sign on the side of Highway 607 in Hancock County. It’s urging drivers to slow down since, in just a few weeks, this area will be a construction site. The Mississippi Department of Transportation is expanding this two-lane road to four lanes, from just north of Stennis Space Center to Interstate 59. Project engineer Chuck Starita says the $15 million expansion will be a big help during hurricane season.

In the event of a major evacuation now people will be able to get out much more efficienlty and get up to Interstate 59 allowing for a much safe and efficient evacuation, "says Sarita.

Emergency director Brian Adam says Hancock County is 485 square miles; and 180 of those miles are in low-lying areas. He says the new four-lane route will help people get out of those low-lying areas when evacuations are ordered.

"Absollutely I think it would help, anytime you have four lanes where people can use different routes, it will help," says Adam.

In about two years, when the road is finished, it will tie in with a recently completed four-lane road in Stennis Space Center, creating Hancock County’s first four-lane north-to-south evacuation corridor, to be used during mandatory evacuations. Dr. Ken Griffey is chief of center services at Stennis. He says, currently, west coast residents have to travel east to find a four-lane evacuation route.

"They're bottled up until they get all the way over to Gulport, and think about it, when it's bumper to bumper and everybody's trying to leave, that's pretty tough so this will open up and outlet, a valve so to speak so that people from Bay St. Louis and Pearlington and Waveland and Pass Christian will now have a way that they can go west and then go north, as opposed to that huge flow that goes east and then north," says Griffey.

He also says the expansion may help ease commuter traffic for Stennis workers who live to the north, and may also encourage development in that area. About 5300 people work at Stennis.

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Photo courtesy of Evelina Burnett/ MPB News


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