Old 11 to get upgrade, turn lane near OG Middle

By HASKEL BURNS,

Improvements are on the way to ease the traffic burdens that are all too familiar to motorists on Old Highway 11, particularly in the area near Oak Grove Middle School.

Last week, the Lamar County Board of Supervisors accepted a low bid of $800,108.80 from R&J Construction of Laurel for a project that will slightly widen the asphalt roadway and replace old culvert cross drains on Old Highway 11 between Old Highway 24 and Richburg Road. In addition, a turn lane will be added at the middle school entrance, and workers will overlay the entire roadway length as well as add final striping and siding.

“So it will be improving the shoulders and adding a little more asphalt to improve the traffic flow,” Lamar County Administrator Jody Waits said. “(The turn lane) will ease traffic in that area – it backs up quite a bit during school traffic.

“Right now, at the beginning and ending of the school day, traffic has nowhere to get off to make that turn, so it backs up through the intersection of Old 11 and 24 and really slows things down through there. And it’s become accident-prone as well – it seems like there’s always somebody running into somebody because it’s so congested.”

The project is a continuation of the upcoming widening of Old Highway 11 that will stretch from the city limits near Oak Grove High School down to Old Highway 24.

“We found additional funds to continue that improvement down to Richburg Road,” Waits said. “We’re fortunate that the funds are coming from state aid road funds, and we’re able to capitalize on some of the most recent changes in the legislation, which will allow us to access some emergency funds to do that as well.”

Work on the project is expected to begin in the next couple weeks, with construction on the turn lane mostly taking place on weekends so as not to interfere with the school traffic. Work should be done within three to four months.

At least one lane will remain open at all times during the course of construction.

Warren & Warren Asphalt Paving will conduct the asphalt work for the project, while R&J Construction will handle pipe installation and earthwork.

“With school starting and the desire to get that turn lane in place, my communication with R&J ahead of the bid was that the closures necessary to do cross-drain work on Old 11 will occur on the weekends,” said Jason Lamb, project engineer with Hattiesburg firm The Walker Associates. “Most likely it will be during the daytime on the weekends, because of the safety element of that.

“I do believe that was one thing that elevated the bid, was all the different bidders looking at that identified the need for some pretty serious traffic control, even if they do the work on the weekends. It’s four cross-drains, so hopefully one or two weekends and they’ll be out.”