Key interchange funding clears House panel
By By Buddy Bynum / editor
Sept. 26, 2002
A $5 million federal appropriation to help build an interchange from Interstate 20/59 to Lauderdale County's newest industrial park has been approved by a key subcommittee in the U.S. House.
U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., said Wednesday the money is included in a multibillion-dollar appropriations bill that carries money for various transportation projects around the country. The bill is expected to be approved by the House Appropriations Committee as early as today, and still faces action by the full House and Senate.
Access to the I-20/59 Industrial Park from the interstate will require a new interchange in the Hawkins Crossing area and federal funding is a key component in developing the park's overall ability to attract prospects, Pickering said.
The East Mississippi Business Development Corp. acquired the 600-acre site in 2000 and has been actively marketing it to industrial prospects, some related to the automotive industry. Even as they market the undeveloped site, local officials have been working for months to secure funding for essential infrastructure work, including water and sewer and the Hawkins Crossing interchange at I-20/59.
The interchange is one piece of the industrial park's development and $1 million in federal planning money for it is already in place.
Another piece is a $250,000 grant announced by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove on Sept. 10 to run temporary water service to the park from the Town of Marion. The water system will stay in place as a backup to a permanent system.
A third piece is a $3.8 million grant through the federal Economic Development Administration for permanent water and sewer service. The application has been pre-approved and final word on the grant may come on Oct. 14 when David A. Sampson, the assistant secretary of Commerce for economic development, visits Meridian as guest speaker at EMBDC's sixth annual meeting.
The I 20/59 interchange "is a must for us," said Craig Hitt, president of the Lauderdale County board of supervisors. "Obviously we have access (to the industrial park) but we need direct access off the interstate to bring prospects in." Hitt applauded the congressional subcommittee's action.
The project would be funded through the Federal Highway Administration, a unit of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Pickering said the committee action "demonstrates a federal commitment to fund this project."
A transportation appropriations bill also includes the following projects in east Mississippi: