Sunday, June 8, 2003
MDOT's Hall responds to inquiry on interchange
An open letter to Roy Hurst of Meridian:
Thank you for taking time to write and express your concerns regarding a proposed interchange in Meridian. I appreciate your giving me the opportunity to respond to the specific issues addressed in your May 14, 2003, letter regarding this prospective project.
Most of the work performed by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) is done according to rules and policies promulgated by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), so all work on the interstate system will be uniform nationwide and this is no exception. MDOT is obligated to follow FHWA regulations which require that the distance between interchanges in rural areas be three miles and in urban areas, one mile. We cannot just deem a project to be worthwhile and began work while ignoring FHWA guidelines.
MDOT engineers rejected an earlier proposal by the local government to locate the new interchange onto Highways 11/80 because the complex configuration required would have been extremely expensive. Additionally, the resulting ramp to the industrial park would pose a serious hazard for transport trucks.
MDOT staff then suggested that alternate routes be studied. One alternate called for traffic to exit Highway 45 onto Highway 19. Traffic would move to Sweet Gum Bottom Road, then north to the industrial park. This alternate was rejected since it did not provide the most direct access and would cause traffic to travel through a fairly dense residential area. A new interchange could not be constructed off I-20 at Sweet Gum Bottom Road due to FHWA's three-mile spacing requirement on rural interstate.
In another alternate, MDOT determined that the distance from the interchange of I-20 at Highway 19 to Highway 45 is 2.3 miles. Thus, there is a segment within about three-tenths of a mile long where a new interchange could be constructed since all the property is in the urban classification, which has a one-mile minimum spacing requirement.
Within this option, which meets minimum criteria, the city and county will have a 0.3 mile corridor in which to determine the exact location of the interchange. Several primary alternates are to be proposed, some impacting large parcels of property and others impacting smaller parcels.
This project is being developed jointly between the City of Meridian and Lauderdale County. It has received specially earmarked monies from Congress to be used only for its development. The project is currently in an environmental stage in which alternates are developed. These alternates will be presented at a formal public hearing sometime within the near future. MDOT and FHWA representatives will be present at this hearing hosted by the City of Meridian. You and the other residents in that area will be afforded an opportunity to have your questions answered during this public hearing before a final document for the interchange is approved.
I hope I've addressed your concerns, if not, please let me hear from you.
MDOT is working with local governments to meet a long-acknowledged need for industry access to large tracts of land in Meridian which could have a profound positive impact on both the City of Meridian and Lauderdale County. We want that to happen. I frequently say that MDOT is not just building highways, we are building an economy and this project certainly has that potential. Again, thank you for showing an interest in the betterment of your community.
Criticism of Rodgers way off base
To the editor:
In response to a letter to the editor written by Jerry Harris ("Rodgers Festival on the excessive side," The Meridian Star, May 25), which referenced the life of Jimmie Rodgers, I would like to say the following.
The letter was "cheap" to say the least. The Bible says in James 3:8 these words: "But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." When we can't say something good about anyone, why do we choose to say the worst? I don't know if Jimmie Rodgers ever consumed a half pint of booze, a half-gallon or several gallons. Neither does the letter writer. The letter's language was such that it came off like a half-way question, or I heard, "they say," etc. To be honest, it was junk.
There have been a number of entertainers who have been plagued by strong drink, drugs and other downfalls. However, Jimmie Rodgers died from terrible tuberculosis, as any sensible minded person knows. Whether or not he drank a lot, or little, I do not know. I know he was a "first" in the world of entertainment; he is "The Father of Country Music" and such a dirt-infested letter does not change that or reflect upon the real Jimmie Rodgers. I do have it officially, from a first cousin of Jimmie's, that he paid any family debts he owed when he became the star that he was. Mr. Harris, I could care less whether our paying tribute to Jimmie Rodgers made you sick to your stomach or not. But I do pray that you are better by now.