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
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
"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
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 email@example.com