Residents see plans for four-laning

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 21, 2003

CENTREVILLE &045; Area residents and business owners studied maps and talked with state officials Tuesday about how the proposed four-laning of Mississippi 24/48 will affect them.

The open forum at city hall was one of three held in the Wilk-Amite area this week to seek public input on the 53-mile project, which will link U.S. 61 in Woodville to Interstate 55 in McComb.

&uot;We are looking at all aspects &045; historical, residential and business properties,&uot; said Sedrick Durr, one of several representatives from the Mississippi Department of Transportation who hosted the meeting.

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Kansas City-based HNTB Companies, a multi-disciplined engineering and architectural firm, has been contracted to conduct a study of the entire project, Durr said. Coastal Environments of Baton Rouge has also been hired to make recommendations regarding cultural resources and hazardous waste issues.

Property owners were urged to make written recommendations on the proposed alignments and alternate routes.

&uot;There will be more public meetings in July, but by then we will have a firmer idea of where the alignments will be.

That’s why it’s important for the public to make comments now,&uot; MDOT representative Ray Vincent said.

Plans currently offer the possibility of five-laning the current Highway 24 bypass through Centreville, as well as an alternate route to the north of town.

The northern route would expedite through-traffic more efficiently, but merchants on the bypass say it would hurt existing businesses.

&uot;That’s the same thing that happened to downtown Centreville years ago.

It needs to go right where the highway is now.

And it would be safer because the traffic would be slowed down,&uot; Roy Perkins, owner of Perkins Auto Supply said.

Others are waiting for officials to make a decision.

&uot;They told me it would be several years before any work begins, but I need to know now whether I’m going to have to relocate,&uot; said Gary Whetstone, who owns an auto and small engine repair shop on the bypass.

A year-long environmental study would be followed by a design phase and right of way acquisitions, which can take two to three years to complete.

Officials said construction will probably begin by 2007 at McComb, where the highest traffic counts exist.

The study corridor currently follows Mississippi 48 from Centreville to Liberty, leaving Mississippi 24 through Gloster a two-lane highway.

Officials said a four-lane through Gloster is planned after the current project is completed.