• MDOT updates projects in northwest Mississippi

    Commissioner Mike Tagert, Northern Transportation District, has announced updates to Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) projects in Northwest Mississippi.

    Interstate 269 in DeSoto and Marshall counties
    Construction continues on the state’s largest active highway construction project. The first two phases of are complete and open to traffic from the Tennessee state line in Marshall County to State Route 305 in DeSoto County.

    The final nine-mile stretch will connect Interstate I-55 and State Route 305.

    “When the final stretch is complete, we will have full connectivity between I-55 and I-40 in Tennessee,” Tagert said. “It will drive new growth opportunities for DeSoto County and north Mississippi.”

    The first layer of asphalt has been laid on the entire project. Additional lifts will be laid to tie in bridges and interchanges. More than 100,000 tons of asphalt have been laid on the project to date.

    Rain in fall 2017 and cold winter have delayed the project. The paving operation is 35 percent complete and scheduled for completion in late summer 2018.

    State Route 6 Tallahatchie River Bridge in Panola County
    The 3,300-foot span will replace the existing Tallahatchie River Bridge and relief bridge. The new bridge is on a new alignment just south of the existing bridge. The project includes the realignment and reconstruction of other minor structures within the project limits and the realignment of the Waldrup Road and Macedonia Road intersections.

    MDOT will coordinate with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to relocate the existing levee on the west side of the Tallahatchie River. MDOT estimates project completion in December 2018.

    Other major construction projects in District 2 include the following.

    · U.S. Highway 72 Expansion in Marshall County
    Construction continues on a project to four-lane the last remaining two-lane section of Highway 72 in Mississippi from State Route 302 to the Tennessee state line in Marshall County. The project will add an interchange at Industrial Road and the realignment of Cayce Road. MDOT anticipates this project to be complete in summer 2018.

    · Interstate 55 and State Route 302 Intersection Improvements in DeSoto County
    The project adds new right turn lanes to the northbound and southbound exit ramps of I-55 and right turn/through lanes in both directions on State Route 302. The improvements will improve traffic flow at the high-use intersection. Crews are currently doing substantial drainage work at the interchange. The project is slated for a fall 2018 completion.

    Work zones can present unfamiliar traffic patterns. For information on how to navigate a highway work zone safely, visitGoMDOT.com/drivesmartms.

    For more information about MDOT maintenance and construction projects, visit MDOTtraffic.com, download the free MDOT Traffic mobile app or like and follow @MississippiDOT on Facebook and Twitter.

  • U.S. Highway 51 Coldwater River Bridge Opens to Traveling Public

    The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) opened a new bridge over the Coldwater River in Tate County to all traffic.

    “We are pleased to announce the completion of the project reconnecting Tate and DeSoto counties, and the rest of the region, on Highway 51,” said Commissioner Mike Tagert, Northern Transportation Commissioner. “About 3,200 motorists used the bridge each day before it was damaged by flooding in 2016. Residents, businesses and industries will once again be able to easily access their communities using Highway 51.”

    Crews put the finishing lifts of asphalt on the $22.7 million project last week. Rumble strips were installed and lane striping applied finished the project this week.

    “We needed a few consistent days of good weather so crews could complete their work,” Tagert said.

    The original bridge, built in 1935, was closed in March 2016 after flooding damaged the bridge’s structural supports. The new 2,000-foot span is 900 feet longer and four feet taller to provide more resiliency to high water events. The travel lanes have been widened to 14 feet.

    “Thank you to the public for your patience while we built a bigger and stronger bridge,” Tagert said. “We appreciate the MDOT employees who worked on this project for their diligence and for being good stewards of taxpayer dollars to keep this project on budget despite the many challenges.”

  • MDOT releases 2018 Mississippi Official State Highway Map

    The free 2018 Mississippi Official State Highway Map is available now. Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert and the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) recently unveiled the map’s cover featuring Tishomingo State Park.

    “We live in a digital world, and it seems that all of our technological advancements today come in the form of upgraded smartphones, but this map not only guides travelers around the Magnolia State, it promotes one of our scenic state parks,” Tagert said. “Most people are unaware that MDOT distributes 2.5 million copies of the map throughout the Mid-South and most of the lower 48 states.”

    Through a partnership with the Mississippi Development Authority and Visit Mississippi, MDOT provides the map in welcome centers across the state and through local city and county chambers, development groups, Main Street Associations and convention and visitors bureaus. One of the map’s highlights is a list of things to do in Mississippi including food, music, museums and bike trails. MDOT works with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) to help promote the state’s parks.

    Each year, the map cover features a local tourist attraction or scenic destination from around the state. This year, the cover features the iconic swinging bridge in Tishomingo State Park.

    “This swinging bridge is very special to me because my wife and I got married here 40 years ago,” said Greg Collier, Tishomingo County Board of Supervisors president. “We would like to thank MDOT for featuring the swinging bridge in the Tishomingo State Park on this year’s state highway map cover.”

    Tishomingo State Park is a public recreation area located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Tishomingo County, about 45 miles northeast of Tupelo. The park’s major feature is Bear Creek Canyon and its sandstone outcroppings. Activities in the park include rock climbing, fishing and hiking. The park sits at Milepost 304 of the Natchez Trace Parkway, a scenic road operated by the U.S. National Park Service commemorating the historic Natchez Trace. The park was voted the most popular outdoor recreation destination in Mississippi last year and is home to 13 miles of walking trails. It offers one thing visitors will not find at most other state parks – a floating canoe tour. The park offers 62 RV campsites, primitive campsite area, six cabins, one cottage and a group camp facility.  Reservations can be made by online reservations at www.mdwfp.com or by calling the park at (662) 438-6914.

    “This map has the potential to get into a lot of hands and reach many people,” said Jennifer Head, MDWFP director of state parks. “We thrive on tourism. I believe the state park system is one of the best kept secrets in the state, and Tishomingo State Park is truly one of our most beautiful parks.”

    Tishomingo County has earned the reputation of being one of the most successful rural counties in the United States. Over the past several years, Tishomingo County has won over 2,000 manufacturing jobs that have brought $307 million into the county.

    “Tishomingo County has seen huge industrial growth over the last five years, and over the last 10 years, it has become one of the most popular places for people to retire,” Collier said. “But, just as important, the county has seen a 12 percent growth in tourism over the same period, and the Tishomingo State Park is a big reason for that.”

    Tourism is a valuable part of Mississippi’s economic story. Tourism is the fourth largest industry in the state. This past year, over 23 million people visited Mississippi. That represents $6.3 billion going to the state economy and over 86,000 direct jobs.

    “This map is not only designed to promote northeast Mississippi, but also the entire state,” Tagert said. Tourism plays such a huge role in our state economy, and this map helps tourists get to the destinations that interest them.”

    The map is an invaluable resource for visitors to the state and provides an opportunity to highlight the different regions of Mississippi. Last year, 2.6 million people engaged with staff at the welcome centers. These visitors actually signed in and requested information from welcome center employees.

    “Highways lead visitors to our authentic Mississippi experiences – our attractions, our restaurants and our hotels throughout the state,” said Craig Ray, Visit Mississippi director. “An estimated 95 percent of our 23 million visitors arrive by car, truck, bus – on our roads. We are officially a drive-in state, and this map helps drive and educate our visitors to where they want to go. Visit Mississippi proudly distributes MDOT’s state highway map at our 13 welcome centers around the state.”

    Tagert, Collier, Head and Ray all share the same sentiment: Tourism is vital to Mississippi’s economy and the Official State Highway Map is an important tool in boosting tourism throughout the state.

    “This map is a team effort to bring people to our state and see for themselves the great state of Mississippi,” Tagert said. “Tourism plays a vital role in our state’s economic well-being, and the state highway map certainly plays a big role in that.”

    The 2018 Official State Highway Map is available now. To order a free copy, visit GoMDOT.com/maps.

  • Don’t wreck the holidays — celebrate safely this year

    The holiday season is finally upon us, and so is the season to spend extra time celebrating with friends and family. As many are looking forward to decorating the tree and eating delicious foods, some are anticipating the upcoming weeks of holiday parties and social gatherings. The hustle and bustle of these events can be exciting, but they also can become deadly. The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) wants to remind the traveling public of the dangers of drinking and driving, and the importance of planning ahead.

    “Every holiday party begins with planning. MDOT wants the traveling public to take the same approach when it comes to holiday travel,” said Melinda McGrath, P.E., MDOT executive director. “We want to keep our roads as safe as possible this holiday season, and we cannot stress enough the importance of having a designated driver. If you plan on drinking during the holidays, always hand your keys over to someone who has not been drinking.”

    Drunk driving effects thousands of people across the U.S. every year. Every day almost 29 people die in an alcohol-impaired vehicle crash. In 2016, one person was killed in an alcohol-related crash every 50 minutes.

    In every state, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or higher. However, even small amounts of alcohol can impair a person’s ability to drive. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2,017 people were killed in 2016 in alcohol related crashes where drivers were under the legal BAC limit.

    Alcohol impairs thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination, which restricts a person from operating a vehicle correctly. Even though someone isn’t feeling or acting drunk, does not automatically mean this person is okay to drive. Just one drink can have significant consequences if someone decides to get behind the wheel.

    While celebrating this year, MDOT offers these tips to ensure Mississippi’s roads remain safe for all motorists this holiday season.

    • If you drink alcohol, do not get behind the wheel for any reason.  Make sure you have a designated driver in mind or a taxi to take you home…
    • Hand your keys over to a trusted friend or family member at the beginning of the night before the first drink. This removes any temptations of thinking you are okay enough to drive.
    • Hold your friends and family accountable; if someone is drinking, do not let them get behind the wheel. Take their keys and make sure they have a sober ride home.
    • Impaired drivers are not only a danger to themselves, but also to other innocent drivers on the road. If you suspect someone is driving drunk, call the police when it is safe to do so.
    • Be aware of other drivers: don’t assume that everyone else is driving as safely as you are.

    “MDOT wants everyone to celebrate the holidays safely, Remember, drugged driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving and driving under the influence of certain prescription medications can be just as deadly,” McGrath said. “We want everyone to make smart decisions over the holidays and truly enjoy their time spent with friends and family celebrating this wonderful time of the year.”

    For more tips on traveling safely this holiday season, visit GoMDOT.com/drivesmartms.

    For the most current travel and traffic information, visit MDOTTraffic.com, download the free MDOT Traffic app, call Mississippi 511 or follow and like @MississippiDOT on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Turning a Waterway into an Economic Lifeline

    Connecting the Port of Mobile to the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio rivers, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway is more than a modern engineering wonder. It is a lifeline of economic opportunity for the South, as companies that make their living off the region’s natural resources invest at a record pace along this man-made marvel.

    Completed in 1984, just one month after President Ronald Reagan’s re-election, the US$2-billion waterway project included 10 locks and dams, a 175-foot-deep (53.1-meter-deep) canal connecting the Tennessee River with the Tombigbee River watershed, and 234 miles (377 km.) of navigation channels.

    Today, the waterway is considered one of the most energy-efficient trade routes in North America. It connects 18 states and 14 river systems totaling some 4,500 miles (7,242 km.) of navigable waterways serving a large swath of southern and middle America.

    The payback for this massive public works project that was 12 years in the making is now coming in droves, says Mike Tagert, administrator for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority in Columbus, Miss.

    “The past five years have seen probably as much direct total investment along the Tenn-Tom as in all the years previously,” says Tagert, noting that steel industry investment along the Tenn-Tom has totaled more than $5 billion since 2003. “Severstal Columbus alone has invested a total of $1.3 billion in its steel plant, bringing 450 jobs, the majority paying over $70,000 per year. That’s a tremendous impact in a region like this.”

    The Columbus mini-mill opened in 2007 on 1,400 acres (567 hectares). The company’s phase-two expansion, now underway, will upgrade the Mississippi plant from 1.7 million tons (1.6 million metric tons) to 3.4 million tons (3.1 million metric tons) per year. Severstal can ship products directly from the plant by rail, road or barge.

    Multi-modal access to multiple trade and supply routes is the primary selling point of the waterway to industrial end-users, says Tagert. “It is a critical link. Without the Tenn-Tom, you would not have the link between the Gulf of Mexico ports and the inland waterways of the Ohio, Mississippi and Tennessee rivers,” he says. “We are directly linked to the Port of Mobile. As the Port of Mobile goes, so goes the Tenn-Tom Waterway.”

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