Four major road projects totaling just under $143 million are underway in Forrest County – from safety improvements, interchange construction and mill overlay – under the purview of the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
“Summer is peak construction season at MDOT, and we’re proud to see the progress being made on Mississippi’s highways,” said Tom King, commissioner for the Southern Transportation District. “We are always striving to improve our state’s transportation network by enhancing its safety for our citizens.
“These projects all represent significant steps in that direction.”
Perhaps the biggest of those is a $66.7 million safety improvement project on Interstate 59, with funding secured by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Congressman Steven Palazzo. The work, which is underway, stretches 14 miles from the Lamar County line to just south of Moselle.
Clearing operations are already finished, and workers are currently moving forward with paving.
In addition, a drainage improvement project is continuing on that stretch of Interstate. The project, which was awarded to Dunn Roadbuilders, is expected to be complete in 2024.
As part of that project, milling and overlay work was completed on U.S. 98 East, seven miles to the Forrest and Lamar county line. New traffic lights have been installed at the intersection with U.S. 11.
“They’re actually milling the interstate up from basically the Lamar and Forrest county line on Interstate 59,” said David Hogan, president of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors. “Then it will run all the way to the Jones County line.”
Safety improvements also are underway on U.S. 49, with a $41 million project stretching from the Stone County line to South Gate Road at Camp Shelby. Grading work is being performed in the median and southbound outside shoulder, and drainage work continues.
Southbound traffic has been shifted to the median in several locations to allow for reconstruction of the existing southbound lanes to remove steep vertical curves. Retaining walls are also being constructed.
The contract for that project was awarded to T.L. Wallace Construction of Columbia and is expected to wrap up this fall.
“That’s an ongoing project where the trees in the median have been removed, shoulders have been added and hills have been cut down,” Hogan said. “Highway 49 going south of Hattiesburg will be much safer, including for our kids that attend Forrest County Agricultural High.
“Prior to this, there were very steep shoulders and pine (trees) very close to the highway, which was dangerous. If someone was to run off the road, it was very dangerous; you could hit one of those trees easily, or go down one of those steep ravines. So we thank commissioner King and MDOT for that project.”
Meanwhile, a $24.2 million interchange construction project is underway at Interstate 59 and the Evelyn Gandy Parkway. That contract, which Hogan estimates is more than 80 percent finished, also was awarded to Dunn Roadbuilders.
“That is to make it much safer and smoother when getting on and off of the Evelyn Gandy Parkway there at Interstate 59,” Hogan said. “It’s actually nearing completion, and we want to thank MDOT also for funding that project.
“The Forrest County Board of Supervisors is actually lighting that interchange, so it’ll be much more visible during driving.”