Interchange work to begin this year

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 14, 2004

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Construction of a new interchange at Liberty Road and Seargent S. Prentiss Drive could start in as little as eight to 10 months, Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown said Friday.

&uot;I’d say we’ll start on that by the end of the year,&uot; said Brown, executive director of the state Department of Transportation, adding that construction should take about one year to complete.

Although more specific figures for the total project were not available as of Friday, Brown said the overpass alone will probably cost $8 million to $10 million. That doesn’t include such things as roadway improvements and right-of-way costs.

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As it now stands, the department is finishing maps, deeds and appraisals for the project and still has to acquire rights-of-way, said Darrell Broome, MDOT District 7 engineer.

What has delayed the project? One thing was the length of time it took to complete the environmental study process, including a series of hearings to gather public opinion on the project.

A hearing was held in October 2002 to unveil three alternative plans for the interchange project.

The elimination of businesses in the path of the work &045;&045; 12 in all, under the preferred option &045;&045; was a main concern expressed by citizens after that hearing, along with limited access to businesses along the corridor.

In July, MDOT unveiled another alternative. That design uses a modified partial cloverleaf but also includes more turnoffs on Seargeant S. Prentiss Drive north of the Liberty Road intersection, which proponents have said makes it more business friendly.

Because the nearby Natchez Trace Extension should be finished by the end of this year, MDOT wants to speed the Liberty Road interchange project as much as possible, Broome said.

&uot;We want to make as smooth a transition as possible,&uot; he said.