College Hill Road to be rerouted (again) one week from today

The Oxford Eagle By Lucy Schultze
December 01, 2003

A year after College Hill area residents revolted over the poorly planned rerouting of their only access to town, county and university officials are hoping for a smoother transition when they give it a second try next Monday.

"One year later, we're asking to do the same thing," said Jim Windham, co-manager for the University-Oxford Airport, which needs the space to extend its runway.

"We hope we have all our ducks in a row this time."

The change that could give them success: a reconfigured intersection at Old Sardis Road, complete with turn lanes in all directions. It was originally built as a simple one-way stop.

Officials plan to close the portion of College Hill Road between the Scissors Den and the rerouted road at 9 a.m. Dec. 8. Traffic will be diverted through the new section, which meets Old Sardis Road about 2,000 feet north of the old intersection.

Officials closed the road and diverted traffic along the rerouted section last year on Dec. 18, but reversed themselves by 1 p.m. that day when it became obvious the new intersection couldn't handle the traffic.

The plan had failed to place stop signs along Old Sardis Road, and traffic backed up down College Hill Road as rush hour traffic waited for a break to turn left.

A key glitch: the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which controls Old Sardis Road (Highway 314), approved the new intersection without realizing that the new road was replacing the old one.

After the false start, MDOT came back to local officials and supported a reconfigured intersection that would accommodate traffic needs 10 years into the future.

The University of Mississippi and the Federal Aviation Administration have since paid to upgrade the intersection from a $15,000 model to a $160,000 model. MDOT also pitched in, providing 450 tons of asphalt for the final overlay at the new intersection.

"One year later, we have come in here and provided turn lanes in all directions," Windham said. "People going to town will have only one stop."

Cost for the land acquisition and the new road has been shared on a 90-5-5 percent basis among the FAA, UM and MDOT, respectively. FAA is paying 90 percent of the cost to extend the runway by 900 feet, with MDOT Aeronautics covering the remaining 10 percent.

According to Windham, the land for the road's rerouting was secured 30 years ago, but the federal funds to build it only became available recently.

The runway expansion is part of the airport's long-term plan designed to enhance safety and better accommodate corporate and charter planes - not commercial jets. The airport is managed by the university but operated as a public general aviation airport.

Lafayette County Sheriff Buddy East said this morning that he plans to have deputies on hand as much as possible at the new intersections for the first couple of days they are in use.

"We're going to try our best to prevent a wreck till everybody gets used to it," he said, asking residents to be patient until then.

"Once everybody gets used to it," he said, "maybe it will be OK."

- Lucy Schultze can be reached at lucyschultze@oxfordeagle.com

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