Work won’t be starting anytime soon on the Anse Dees Highway 82 Greenville Bypass, but it will happen sooner than a normal project of this type.
The original work on the bypass started more than a decade ago and stalled. There are currently overpasses and some road-bed work already in existence. Almost all the of the needed land for construction of the bypass has already been purchased.
“We anticipate a quicker-than-normal start on this project,” said Central Mississippi Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons. “It will be more than a year before work starts but it won’t be the 4-5 years you’d normally wait.”
Funding for the project should be in-hand by Oct. 1. Simmons said the construction will require another million dollars or so on top of $71.46 million federal grant.
Simmons said the importance of the bypass project in Greenville made it a priority for the current legislative delegation.
He said it will be a boon to the economic development of the region and will complete a necessary corridor of four-lane traffic from the Alabama border to the river crossing in Greenville.
Some have speculated the completion of the bypass might be an opportunity for the re-routing of I-69 through Greenville instead of at the currently planned river crossing in Benoit.
Crossing in Benoit would require the construction of a new bridge.
“The department hasn’t really talked about a change in the routing of I-69,” Simmons said. “We want to get this project finished for its own sake.”
Simmons said moving 18-wheeler traffic out of the center of Greenville is a safety necessity.
“You’ve got these trucks hauling chemicals and fuel right in town and near residential areas,” Simmons said.
Former Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall said there is already more than $60 million in work done on the bypass.
The project continues previous efforts by MDOT to connect 6.2 miles of roadway from the Mississippi River bridge to the future interchange with State Route 1, completing construction on the segment by extending the bypass another 9.4 miles east. The project promotes economic development by reducing travel times for freight vehicles traveling through the western side of the state while aiming to bring more commerce and jobs to the Mississippi Delta region.
Hall was sitting commissioner when funding came from Washington for construction of the bridge.
“My secretary asked, ‘Can you take a call from Senator (Trent) Lott,” Hall said. “Usually you’d pick up the phone and it would be his secretary asking you to hold for the Senator. This time it was him on the phone and he said he’d got $100 million for the bridge in Greenville.”
The bypass is a completion of that large roadway improvement expenditure.
“The Greenville Bypass Freight Corridor Improvement Project is an example of the work MDOT can do when funding is appropriated,” said Simmons. “Thank you to our partners Sen. Wicker, Sen. Hyde-Smith, Congressman Thompson, Mayor Simmons, Federal Highway Administration and others whose support made this project possible.”
The grant ties into the Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) initiative, which addresses disparities in rural transportation infrastructure to improve safety and economic competitiveness throughout the country. Rural areas like the Mississippi Delta face several transportation challenges relating to safety, usage and infrastructure condition.
The safe and efficient movement of goods and people is MDOT’s top priority. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), 46% of all roadway fatalities occur on rural roads. The fatality rate on rural roads is 2.1 times higher than on urban roads.
“The Greenville Bypass will improve safety throughout the Mississippi Delta by providing a route for freight traffic to efficiently move goods around the Greenville area without traveling through the city,” said Simmons. “We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to fund infrastructure improvement projects that make our roads safer while growing the state’s economy.”
While the funds are from the federal government, former Delta Council Executive Director Chip Morgan, said Simmons is a direct catalyst.
“Willie, I have to give it to him,” Morgan said. “He never let up.”