Rachel Walker is hoping the highway department
will fix Oxford's most dangerous intersection without putting
an on ramp in her front yard.
Her two beloved magnolia trees look like
gray dots on the aerial images overlaid with four possible designs
for a new interchange at West Jackson Avenue and Highway 6.
One of them uses part of her property for a right-of-way, and
another would take it completely.
"We built that house and thought we'd
be there till God took us home," she said. "I don't
want to move, but I'd rather they take all or nothing."
In a growing part of town surrounded by
residential and commercial development, engineers with the Mississippi
Department of Transportation are trying to find the best way
to expand what is now a simple stoplight into an interchange
with a bridge, ramps and possibly loops.
Local residents reviewed the four potential
plans and offered their comments Tuesday afternoon as MDOT representatives
visited Oxford for a second time to gather feedback. The new
designs on display were largely adapted from suggestions given
at the first public meeting in August.
Though the timing and final design for
the project are not yet set, one thing is for sure: no design
is going to please everyone. Each option will affect homes and
businesses in the area, either by changing the traffic flow
around them, rerouting their access roads or gobbling them up
Business owners on West Jackson and West
Oxford Loop feel strongly about leaving the intersection close
to its present location.
Two options now being considered by MDOT
accomplish this, with a bridge bringing West Jackson over the
highway to meet the frontage road on the other side. A diamond-shaped
configuration of ramps - or three ramps and a loop - lead traffic
off the highway on to West Jackson near the same place it enters
the road now.
"This would keep us in the traffic
flow," said Keith Black, whose realty office is on West
Oxford Loop. "I think that's the least impact on anybody."
However, these options would require a
new frontage road, rerouting access for several businesses on
Highway 6 that now have direct access to the highway.
And, in contrast to the business owners,
homeowners in Woodlawn and Goose Creek want to see less traffic
when they turn onto West Oxford Loop headed toward town.
A third option for the interchange would
please residents by moving the whole thing east, connecting
the highway to West Jackson via Mall Drive. This would mean
running a new road east of Wal-Mart beside the Ole Miss intramural
fields to hit West Jackson beside Asia restaurant.
In this case, engineers would either close
the current intersection altogether or allow right turns only.
The fourth option brings the interchange east to run directly
through where Captain D's and the old Shoney's now stand, curving
West Oxford Loop east to meet West Jackson. A loop would encircle
the place where Fielder's Welding now stands.
Since so much commercial and residential
property could be affected by the new interchange, real estate
matters are tense in one of Oxford's fastest growing areas.
"It's going to make it hard to sell
anything out there until this is settled," said realtor
Jeffrey Hollis. "You've got all that frozen now."
Uncertainty over the highway department's
plans has put a hold on the construction of a new branch for
Mechanics Bank. President Eddie Ray expects the plans for the
new building to be finished in about three weeks.
"We were hoping to get started by
the first of July," he said. "This is a cause for
concern to us and may delay our project quite a bit."
Danny Walker, assistant district engineer
for MDOT in Batesville, said the highway department will use
the comments it received Tuesday, along with its own engineering
judgment, to narrow the choices down to two or three options.
The department will take six to nine months
to perform an environmental study on each of those before holding
a public hearing to discuss how homes and businesses will be
Once the layout of the interchange has
been selected, the department will take six months to a year
to design it and another year or so to acquire the right-of-way
and move utilities.
Construction is expected to begin in approximately
three years, Walker said.
- Lucy Schultze can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org