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franklin county times

Sweet Gum Bottom Road nixed as I-20/59 exit

By Staff
EXPLANATION – Meridian City Councilman Bobby Smith of Ward 5 listens Tuesday as Mayor John Robert Smith explains problems with the funding of an environmental study for a proposed interchange at the Meridian/Lauderdale County I-20/59 Industrial Park. Photo by Kyle Carter/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
June 16, 2004
Meridian city officials announced Tuesday that Sweet Gum Bottom Road has been eliminated as the location of an interstate exit to serve the Meridian/Lauderdale County I-20/59 Industrial Park.
Mayor John Robert Smith and Public Works Director Monty Jackson told city councilmen that the location was ruled out after preliminary results from an environmental study by Engineering Associates.
Smith said Federal Highway Administration and Mississippi Department of Transportation officials have reviewed Engineering Associates' preliminary findings and agree with their assessment.
The mayor and Jackson also said MDOT initially ruled out the Sweet Gum Bottom site more than two years ago.
Jackson did not name the two other sites.
Jackson said Sweet Gum Bottom Road was ruled out basically because of the topography and because of the possible need to relocate people who live along the road.
Councilmen discussed the I-20/59 interchange for more than an hour a session in which the mayor used a flip chart with oversized copies of letters from the city and MDOT to explain details about the project's funding.
The discussion came more than a week after city councilmen learned part of $1 million in federal money earmarked for preconstruction design work will not pay for environmental studies already completed.
Instead, MDOT will pay for completed environmental studies on all possible exit sites.
The reason: The city's contract with Engineering Associates was not approved by the Federal Highway Administration before the time the studies began.
Next, MDOT will select an engineering firm to complete the preconstruction design work and that money, pending advance approval from FHWA, will be paid with the federal funds.
Because MDOT will pay for the completed environmental studies, the mayor said, the city will be able to use what's left of the $1 million federal money for construction of the interchange.
The question some councilmen have now is what they must do with the original contract between the city and Engineering Associates.
The 2002 contract says Engineering Associates will do preliminary work, including environmental studies and design work. The FHWA says work under the contract is not eligible for federal money.