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IMPROVEMENTS Casey Sisson, left, and Preston Kinard, both of Sisson Construction in Louisville, Miss., work Friday on an expansion project at the Mississippi Welcome Center on Interstate 20/59 West in Toomsuba. PHOTO BY CARISA MCCAIN / THE MERIDIAN STAR

By By William F. West / community editor
June 29, 2002
Mississippi and Alabama are both busy renovating and improving their welcome centers along Interstate 20/59 near Meridian.
The Magnolia State has embarked on a more than $890,000 project to double the size of its welcome center, near Toomsuba, while the Yellowhammer State has spent more than $800,000 adding to its welcome center, near Cuba, Ala.
Folks seem to like what they are seeing so far.
It's long overdue'
The center opened in 1975 as the second in Mississippi, according to Rosie Herron-Williams, who has been managing the state's welcome centers since 1990 for the Mississippi Development Authority.
Herron-Williams said the center near Toomsuba received more than 380,000 visitors from January to December, 2001.
The expansion work on the $892,680 construction project began Dec. 3 and the scheduled completion date is July 11 next year, said John Triplett, an engineer in training at the Mississippi Department of Transportation's Newton office.
Sisson Construction Co. of Louisville has charge of the Mississippi project.
Construction supervisor Casey Sisson said that, although his firm has the year's timeframe to finish the work, he is aiming for completion in about eight months.
The construction work at the Mississippi center includes a new building for the security guard, a fact that pleases Frank Kirtley, who on Friday afternoon was on duty for Goss Security of Jackson.
It'll be very pleasant'
Transportation officials also anticipate expanding the center's parking area and improving the grounds.
Just over the line in Alabama, one of the motorists to stop at its welcome center on Friday afternoon was Mario Hernandez, 34, of Tamaulipas, Mexico. Hernandez was traveling with family to see other relatives in Decatur in the northern part of Alabama.
We think
it's great'
The Alabama Welcome Center, opened to visitors in 1982, has an average daily usage of more than 1,700, according to the Alabama Department of Transportation.
The addition to the center's building began on Dec. 2, 1999, and was completed in July 2001 at a cost of $810,000, with W.W. Dyar Construction Co. of Montgomery handling the project.
The most visible work in progress is on the grounds and the parking lot, with RaCon Construction Co. of Tuscaloosa in charge. Work on the grounds and parking lot began on Aug. 7, 2001, and is scheduled to be completed in October, the department said.
The expansion of the parking lot, along with improving 1.65 miles of the adjoining interstate, adds up to $5,249,247, the department said.
In addition, new signs been erected along the interstate in western Alabama at a cost of $355,000, the department said.