City, county officials to attend I-14 meeting

Published 12:09 am Tuesday, November 7, 2017

NATCHEZ — City and county officials today are attending a three-state joint meeting in Alexandria, La., regarding a potential interstate that could run through Natchez.

The I-14/Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition is holding a strategy session at 1:30 p.m. at the Central Louisiana Regional Chamber of Commerce. The meeting will include leaders in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas from communities that the proposed I-14 corridor route could affect.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said having representation from the city at this meeting is paramount.

Email newsletter signup

“We want to be on board.” Grennell said. “Where do we want (I-14) to come through Natchez? North of Natchez? South? You know — what part of Natchez do we want it?”

Grennell also said the city must monitor the plan’s progress and ensure Natchez remains included.

“We don’t want to be left out of the picture. We want to make sure that Natchez gets a piece of this pie, because it can make all the difference in the world for this city. If we’ve got a major corridor like an I-14 coming through here, think about what it can generate for this city.”

Conceptually, the overarching plan is for I-14 to span from West Texas to East Georgia, traversing five states.

Today’s meeting will specifically discuss a congressional designation amendment to a reportedly $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill President Trump is expected to roll out at some point early next year. The coalition seeks to extend the designation, having the interstate run from West Texas through Louisiana (from Leesville and Fort Polk to Alexandria) eventually leading to the Mississippi River Bridge at Vidalia and Natchez before connecting to I-55.

Congress approved the initial designation to expand across most of Texas when former President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015.

The project — if it does come to fruition — could take decades to complete, but Grennell said he is optimistic the corridor will eventually be realized.

Though Grennell said he is unable to attend the meeting, Natchez Community Development Director James Johnston plans to attend on Grennell’s behalf. Johnston said he will mainly be there to “listen and to share,” while demonstrating that Natchez backs the project.

“We are definitely in full support of it,” Johnston said. “Hopefully the state is in support of this, and (hopefully) other parties as well.”

Additionally, other officials scheduled to attend today’s meeting are Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ and Natchez-Adams Airport Manager Ronald Hall.

Russ said this meeting marks an opportunity to collaborate with other officials and make progress.

“It’s really a chance to meet and greet the other state participants as well as get a game plan on how to move the proverbial ball forward,” he said.

“We’ve been talking about designating U.S. 84 as I-14 for a while now, and this is kind of an organizational meeting of a multi-state effort to have a more formal dialogue with our federal delegations.”

The coalition has said a joint effort between the three states gives the project the best opportunity to succeed.