New Natchez intersection will be very efficient, officials say

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 26, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; A more efficient intersection will soon become the junction at Seargent S. Prentiss Drive and John R. Junkin Drive. In a continuous flow intersection, the traffic through the intersection does not stop.

The project will be funded by the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

Signals some length away from the intersection will control traffic. Because traffic never stops, the new intersection will be very efficient, MDOT Director Larry L. &8220;Butch&8221; Brown said.

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&8220;Once you clear the signal, the timing is such that you move through the intersection without stopping,&8221; Brown said.

And the meeting of the two U.S. highways needs an efficient system, he said.

&8220;It&8217;s one of the busiest if not the busiest intersection in Southwest Mississippi,&8221; Brown said.

Safe travel and looking ahead were two reasons MDOT considered a new design for the intersection, he said.

&8220;Safety and volume of traffic in years to come played a big role in what kind of traffic control we put at that juncture,&8221; Brown said.

The project will also include a new entrance to Natchez Regional Medical Center, located farther south than the present one, he said.

Because MDOT has not bid out the project yet, they do not know how much it will cost, Brown said. They hope to open bids as early as October, he said.

Continuous flow intersections use a separate left turn lane to ease traffic congestion, said Wendel Ruff, director of transportation at ABMB Engineers in Jackson.

The group designed a plan for the intersection that included one continuous flow leg on John R. Junkin Drive.

Continuous flow intersections are rare in the area, although Baton Rouge got one a few months ago, Ruff said.

Another benefit of such an intersection is a shorter wait time, MDOT District Engineer Darrell Broome said.

&8220;The timing is different, the way traffic moves is different,&8221; Broome said. &8220;It&8217;s perfect timing &8212; there&8217;s no dead time. So the cycle time will be a lot less than it has been. You won&8217;t have to sit and wait as long for the light to turn green.&8221;

Construction will be done in phases, Broome said, similar to how the Liberty Road construction has been handled.

&8220;The traffic will be no worse than what Liberty Road is, and it won&8217;t be as drastic a detour,&8221; he said.

Already, steps have been taken toward preparing for construction. Entergy has been moving its light poles to make way for the work, spokesman Stephen Caruthers said.

&8220;We get a heads-up on their projects that involve any poles or transformers in the area, so we are in there removing the poles and facilities that will be in the way,&8221; Caruthers said. &8220;We were told we needed to have our facilities removed by the end of September.&8221;

About 20 light poles needed to be moved, he said, in order for construction to begin.

Once the intersection was finished, Caruthers said, the highway department would install new, high-quality lights. In the meantime, the area would probably be a little dark.

&8220;When it&8217;s finished, we&8217;ll have better than what we have now, it&8217;s just the time between,&8221; he said.