A plan to reconfigure Oxford’s most dangerous intersection has been put on hold until at least 2005.
The West Jackson Avenue-Highway 6 interchange won’t begin “until we can figure out where to find the money,” said Jimmy Dickerson, district engineer with the Mississippi Department of Transportation in Batesville.
“That project was in the area where all the money got cut first“, Dickerson said.
Towns across Mississippi have been reeling from effects of the Legislature’s decision earlier this year to cut $168 million from MDOT in order to balance the state’s budget.
Oxford officials received a letter last week saying they will not receive an expected $135,000 in federal Surface Transportation Program money funneled through MDOT. Those urban funds have been diverted, Dickerson said, but may be restored this year.
Meanwhile, landowners in the western part of town are still waiting to hear MDOT’s decision on how the new Highway 6-Jackson interchange will be configured.
MDOT had narrowed the options down to two by the time the last of three local public hearings was held in November. The state highway department has since chosen one of those options, but it must get final approval from the Federal Highway Administration — a process that began later than intended.
The project should have been included in a statewide improvement plan submitted to the FHA, but it wasn’t.
“Some kind of way it just didn’t get included,” Dickerson said. “We’re going through the process now to get that done.”
Of the two options for the interchange, one involves moving it eastward to run it straight through the area where Captain D’s now stands. West Oxford Loop would curve around to the east to meet West Jackson, and a loop would encircle the place where Fielder’s Welding now stands.
The other option would bring the interchange further eastward by extending Dixie Creek Cove and running the new road by the University of Mississippi’s soccer fields to meet the highway.
Here’s where some other local transportation projects stand:
South Lamar roundabouts — An unusual proposal to alleviate traffic problems at the South Lamar Boulevard/Highway 6 bridge involves adding roundabouts at both ends of the bridge. The project was slated for next summer but now will only be done at that time if MDOT finds some leftover money somewhere (which isn’t likely).
Highway 6/7 interchange — Reconfiguring of this dangerous interchange is scheduled for 2010, with right-of-way acquisition to begin possibly in 2006. This will be done as part of the scheduled four-laning of Highway 7 South to the Highway 9 split.
Highway 314 (Old Sardis Road) bike lanes — A $1 million project for bicycle access out to Sardis Lake is included in enhancement funds that are tied up in the federal transportation bill. Dickerson doesn’t expect the bill to be passed until after the presidential election in November, and even then it will be a year late.
Another $800,000 for the city’s pedestrian and bicycle Pathways project is tied up in this bill as well.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.