• 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.

  • District 2 projects focus on increased efficiency, safety

    Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert has announced updates to several Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) projects in District 2.

    District 2 Bridge Replacement Projects

    Because of the continued deterioration of Mississippi’s transportation infrastructure, MDOT has numerous ongoing bridge replacement projects throughout District 2.

    Work continues on two projects to replace multiple bridges on State Route 32 in Tallahatchie County. The first project will replace three bridges and several small drainage structures along Highway 32. The project also calls for the construction of a new bridge over the railroad just east of Webb. MDOT anticipates this project will be complete in fall 2018.

    The second project will replace two bridges approximately two and a half miles west of Highway 35. This project is complete.

    MDOT plans to let a third project to contract in November 2017 that will replace seven bridges along State Route 32. MDOT is finalizing the plans for this project, but no estimated completion date has been set.

    “The 12 bridges on State Route 32 that will be replaced have been repaired multiple times and are posted at 15 tons or less,” said MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath. “These are steel beam bridges with timber pilings that were built in the late 1940s. Weather, wear and tear have made them a safety hazard for motorists.”

    Funding for these bridge replacement projects was made available through funds from the passage of House Bill 1630, known as the “Gaming Bill,” during the 2015 Legislative Session.

    MDOT is also moving forward with a project to replace the Tallahatchie River Bridge on State Route 6 in Panola County. This project will replace the existing Tallahatchie River Bridge as well as the relief bridge into a single 3,300-foot long bridge. The new bridge will be on a new alignment, just south of the existing bridge. This project also includes the realignment and reconstruction of other minor structures within the project limits, as well as 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 anticipates this project to be complete in late fall 2018.

    MDOT is finalizing plans to replace a set of bridges on Interstate 55 over State Route 306 in Tate County. A new retaining wall will allow the new structures to have a single span and the new bridges will be shorter. A median detour will be utilized on the project while the new bridges are constructed. Work is expected to begin in mid-spring 2018.

    Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Project in DeSoto County

    “DeSoto County is one of the fastest growing population centers in Mississippi,” Tagert said. “As the population increases, so does the number of vehicles on roadways. The CMAQ Project will positively affect travel times and traffic delays in the area.”

    Crews have installed four overhead Dynamic Message Sign (DMS) boards along Interstate 55, one along U.S. Highway 78 and an 80-foot camera pole on State Route 302. Remaining work involves installing all cable, conduit and fiber optics at each DMS location.

    The project is part of upgrading MDOT’s Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) and will give motorists advance warning of crashes, travel times to major intersections and other important messages. This project will have a significant impact on the traveling public’s daily commute. Studies show that this type of ITS upgrade can reduce traffic backups by as much as 20 percent.

    “This project will enhance MDOT’s ability to monitor and manage traffic,” said Tagert. “The new features will allow MDOT to not only increase information distributed to the traveling public, but also improve emergency response and incident clearance times.”

    The benefits of this type of project extend further than just improving the efficiency of our roadways. Projects of this nature can also have a major impact on our environment. The project will reduce travel times and traffic delays, therefore reducing the amount of time vehicles are on the roads. Shorter travel times results in fewer vehicle emissions. Fewer vehicle emissions means improved air quality in the area.

    Other major construction projects in District 2 include the following.

    • Interstate 55 and State Route 302 Intersection Improvements in DeSoto County
      Crews have started a project that will help relieve traffic congestion at the intersection of I-55 and State Route 302. The project will add a right turn lane to the northbound and southbound exit ramps of I-55, as well as add a right turn/thru lane in both directions on State Route 302. The project will be constructed in multiple phases in order to minimize the impact to traffic. Currently, crews are removing the existing paved islands where the interstate exit ramps connect to State Route 302.
    • State Route 6 and State Route 7 Cable Barrier Installation in Lafayette County
      Crews continue work on a project that will install cable median barriers on State Route 6 from Jackson Avenue to University Avenue, and on State Route 7 from just north of the Belk Boulevard intersection to the four-lane section past State Route 30. New fill material is being added to the medians to raise the flowline. New drainage inlets will also be added to the median on State Route 6. Work is expected to be complete in spring 2018.
    • 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. Crews are currently working on grading, drainage and bridge work. The project will also add an interchange at Industrial Road and the realignment of Cayce Road. MDOT anticipates this project to be complete in summer 2018.
    • U.S. Highway 51 Coldwater River Bridge Replacement in Tate County
      This project will replace the existing 1,100-foot bridge with a new 2,000-foot bridge and raise the roadway by four feet to prevent future flooding. Currently, crews have completed most of the new bridge, and continue to finish base and pavement work on the approaches to the bridge. The bridge was originally scheduled for replacement in November 2016; however, damage sustained to the bridge during a March 2016 flood event caused MDOT to close the bridge and move the project timeline forward. A signed detour route is in place directing motorists to use Interstate 55 between Hernando and Coldwater. MDOT anticipates the project will be complete in mid-winter 2017.
    • Interstate 269 in DeSoto and Marshall Counties
      Construction of the I-269 project is on schedule in North Mississippi. This is the largest active MDOT construction project in the state. Dirt and bridgework for the entire I-269 corridor is complete. Crews are currently working on paving the sections of the project that have not been paved. The first section of I-269, from State Route 302 to the Tennessee state line in Marshall County, was opened to traffic on October 23, 2015. The second section of I-269 from State Route 305 to State Route 302 is expected to be open to traffic on December 5. MDOT expects the last remaining section of I-269 from I-55 to State Route 305 to be open for traffic in fall 2018.

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

    For more information about MDOT construction projects, visit MDOTtraffic.com, download the free MDOT Traffic mobile app, call Mississippi 511 or like and follow @MississippiDOT on Facebook and Twitter.

  • District 1 projects focus on safety, system preservation

    The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) is moving forward with major construction projects in North Mississippi, announced Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert.

    Safety and efficiency improvement projects in Itawamba, Oktibbeha and Prentiss counties

    Crews continue with a project to increase safety along State Route 12 through Starkville in Oktibbeha County. The major component of the project is to remove the existing center, two-way left turn lane and replace it with a raised concrete curb median. Paving operations are underway from the beginning of the project to Airport Road. Crews continue to pour the concrete for the new raised medians. Construction began on February 27, and MDOT anticipates this phase of the safety project to be compete in mid-fall 2017.

    “Over a five-year period, there were 1,664 crashes on this portion of Highway 12,” Tagert said. “This number represents the highest crash rate per capita of any state-maintained road north of the Jackson-Metro area. This project will greatly increase the safety of Highway 12 for the residents of Starkville, students of Mississippi State University and visitors to the area.”

    Work to replace seven bridges along State Route 178 in Itawamba County is on schedule. Crews have completed the detour bridge over Lick Skillet Creek and are currently working on the replacement of the mainline bridge.

    Traffic has switched to new bridges on State Route 178 over Hickory Creek and Bull Mountain Creek in Itawamba County. Westbound traffic from Tremont now has access to Patton Flatt Road. Crews are working on replacing bridges over Gum Creek, Cypress Creek and a relief slough west of Patton Flatt Road. State Route 178 will remain closed to traffic until the new bridges are constructed. A signed detour route will be in place while construction takes place on this portion of State Route 178. MDOT expects the project to be complete in early summer 2019.

    MDOT is moving forward with plans to replace four bridges along State Route 145 in Prentiss County. Each bridge has weight limit restrictions and present safety concerns for the traveling public.

    Phase one started in late September and will replace three bridges over Twenty Mile Creek, Wolf Creek and the Wolf Creek tributary. Once work is complete on this phase, work will begin on phase two, which will replace a bridge over Osborne Creek, a box bridge on State Route 145 and the realignment of County Road 7090.

    Phases three and four of this project will replace a bridge over King’s Creek and a box bridge along State Route 145 north of Booneville. Construction of these two phases will begin on May 24, 2019, and have a milestone completion date of July 31, 2019. MDOT anticipates the entire project to be complete by early summer 2020.

    “These bridges have been on MDOT’s deficient bridge list and have become a safety concern for the traveling public,” Tagert said. “These projects will increase safety and mobility throughout the region.”

    System preservation in Lee and Monroe counties

     MDOT is on schedule with a five-mile pavement restoration project on U.S. Highway 45 in Lee County from the county line to north of Brewer Road. Crews are using multiple methods to replace or treat deteriorated asphalt several inches below the surface. Crews have finished applying soil cement to the outside lanes of U.S. Highway 45 between the Shannon exit and Brewer Road, and are expected to begin repaving. MDOT anticipates work to be complete in late fall 2017.

    MDOT has started a separate pavement rehabilitation project on State Route 25 in Monroe County. The mill and overlay project consists of three sections. The first two are from the U.S. Highway 45 Interchange in Aberdeen to U.S. Highway 278 in Amory. The third section is from U.S. Highway 278 to State Route 6 through downtown Amory. MDOT expects the project to be complete in mid-fall 2017.

    “Mississippi’s roads are deteriorating at rates faster than our crews can repair them, and this trend will continue unless a stable funding solution is found,” said Melinda McGrath, MDOT executive director. “However, pavement preservation projects like what we have in Lee and Monroe counties will improve safety, extend the life of the road surface and postpone costly, full-scale reconstructions.”

     Construction zones present new traffic patterns and configurations that can cause confusion to some motorists. For information about how to navigate highway work zones safely, visit GoMDOT.com/drivesmartms.

    For more information on MDOT construction projects, visit MDOTtraffic.com, call Mississippi 511, download the free MDOT Traffic app or like and follow @MississippiDOT on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Drive safe through deer season danger

    One fall night while driving down a Mississippi road, a driver spots two eerie green eyes staring back into the glare of the headlights. What should a driver do when a deer merges onto a lane of the road that they are traveling in? How can drivers reach their destination safely with the threat of hitting a deer? The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) wants to answer all questions on how to drive safely during deer season. 

    When summer finally winds down and fall begins, deer start to move around and become more visible throughout the state’s roadways. The increase in vehicle-deer crashes in the fall and winter months is partially a result of higher traffic volumes, higher vehicle speed and shorter daylight hours.

    “Mississippi averages over 3,000 deer-related crashes per year,” said Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert. “Hitting a deer can be a very costly expense and sometimes it can be a life-threatening accident.”

    There is no way to control deer movement, but there are steps to take to minimize the chances of a collision while driving. MDOT offers these tips for all motorists:

    • DO NOT SWERVE if a deer runs in front of a moving car. Swerving can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicle, causing an even more serious accident.
    • Deer are pack animals. Take extra caution for deer lingering around in the same area.
    • Pay attention when driving at dawn and dusk. About 20 percent of crashes occur in early morning, while more than half occur between 5 p.m. and midnight.
    • Always buckle up for safety and drive at a safe, sensible speed.
    • At night use high beams, when no traffic is approaching, to illuminate the eyes of deer near the road. Make sure both headlights and high beams are cleaned and aimed correctly.   

    “No matter if a driver is traveling rural roads or busy highways, the threat of hitting a deer while driving is very real,” Tagert said. “All motorists should take extra precautions during deer season to ensure their safety while traveling.”

    MDOT urges motorists to avoid distracted driving and buckle up for safety when traveling Mississippi’s highways and roadways during deer season.

    For additional travel safety tips, visit GoMDOT.com/drivesmartms or follow @MississippiDOT or @MikeTagert on Twitter.

  • Marine highways – what are they?

    When asked to describe a highway most people will tend to describe a roadway that they drive their automobile on. But, did you know that there are other types of highways?

    “America’s Marine Highway System consists of the nation’s navigable waterways,” said Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert. “These waterways play an important role in the logistics, safety and economic development of our state, and our nation.”

    Marine highways are navigable waterways that have been designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and have the ability to provide additional capacity to relieve congested landside routes serving freight and passenger movement.

    “Each marine highway has a corridor designation that reflects the congested landside route it parallels,” Tagert said.

    In Mississippi, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway is designated as M-65 because it is parallel to Interstate 65 in Alabama. The Mississippi River is designated as M-55 because of its relationship to Interstate 55.

    “These marine highway designations are important because they provide ways for goods and services to be moved from Mississippi throughout the region, and even internationally,” Tagert said. “Marine highways also reduce the number of heavy commercial vehicles traveling on our highways, which also increases safety for the traveling public.”

    The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) has installed signs throughout the state to show the marine highway designations of these navigable waterways. Motorists will notice the M-65 signs in northeast Mississippi at four Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Crossings: U.S. Highway 72, U.S. Highway 45, U.S. Highway 82 and Interstate 22.

    Additionally, signs for M-55 will be installed at four Mississippi River crossings throughout the state.

    For more information about Mississippi’s Marine Highway system, visit GoMDOT.com.

  • Mississippi Transportation Commission opposes longer, heavier big rigs

    There is proposed legislation in Congress to modify  vehicle weight limitations for the Interstate Highway System and the possibility of “Twin-33’s” being allowed on interstates. Supporters of the legislation claim that increased truck length and weight limits will increase efficiency and safety.

    Your Mississippi Transportation Commission (MTC) has sent a letter to Mississippi’s Congressional delegation showing that the proposed length and weight increases not only violate current bridge formulas but will also decrease safety and increase repair costs.

    The 1975 bridge formula used by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) protects the structural integrity of bridges from damage caused by heavy trucks. The six-axle configuration proposed in 2015, which has been proposed again this year, will violate this formula.

    FHWA tested one 91,000 pound six-axle combination in the Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limit Study, but the configuration tested could only carry up to 45,000 pounds on the three-axle and still be in compliance with the bridge formula.

    Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) released its Final Truck Size and Weight Report to Congress, recommending there be no changes in current truck size and weight limits. The USDOT report concluded that there was not enough data to support the claims that bigger trucks would be safer.

    According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), one in nine bridges is structurally deficient. In Mississippi, that number is one in eight. Overweight trucks cause a disproportionate amount of damage to the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges compared to passenger vehicles. An 18,000-pound truck axle does over 3,000 times more damage to pavement than a typical passenger vehicle axle. Increasing the weight of a heavy truck by only 10 percent, increases damage by 33 percent.

    “The limited data available actually shows that heavier trucks have higher crash rates and that longer trucks take 22 feet longer to stop, causing considerable bridge damage,” said the MTC in its letter to Congress. “Our maintenance efforts are already seriously underfunded. This type of legislation would further contribute to the destruction of bridges and to the cost of repairs and rehabilitation on states, and ultimately the public.”

    To view the full letter from the MTC to Congress, click here. For more information, visit GoMDOT.com.

  • Improved safety focus of active projects in MDOT’s District 2

    Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert has announced updates to several Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) projects in District 2.

    Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Project in DeSoto County

    “DeSoto County is one of the fastest growing population centers in Mississippi,” Tagert said. “As the population increases, so does the number of vehicles on roadways. The CMAQ Project will positively affect travel times and traffic delays in the area.”

    Crews have installed four overhead Dynamic Message Sign (DMS) boards along Interstate 55, one along U.S. Highway 78 and an 80-foot camera pole on State Route 302. Remaining work involves installing all cable, conduit and fiber optics at each DMS location.

    The project is part of upgrading MDOT’s Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) and will give motorists advance warning of crashes, travel times to major intersections and other important messages. This project will have a significant impact on the traveling public’s daily commute. Studies show that this type of ITS upgrade can reduce traffic backups by as much as 20 percent.

    “This project will enhance MDOT’s ability to monitor and manage traffic,” said Tagert. “The new features will allow MDOT to not only increase information distributed to the traveling public, but also improve emergency response and incident clearance times.”

    The benefits of this type of project extend further than just improving the efficiency of our roadways. Projects of this nature can also have a major impact on our environment. The project will reduce travel times and traffic delays, therefore reducing the amount of time vehicles are on the roads. Shorter travel times results in fewer vehicle emissions. Fewer vehicle emissions means improved air quality in the area.

    District 2 Bridge Replacement Projects

    Because of the continued deterioration of Mississippi’s transportation infrastructure, MDOT has numerous ongoing bridge replacement projects throughout District 2.

    Along State Route 6 in Coahoma, Panola and Quitman counties, construction continues on the replacement of 11 bridges between Batesville and Clarksdale. Eight of these bridges are being replaced with new structures, one is being replaced with a new box bridge and two are being replaced with box culverts. Ten of the replacements are complete and open to traffic along the mainline of State Route 6. Additionally, two bridges over the Tallahatchie River have been repaired under this contract. MDOT anticipates this project will be complete by early fall 2017.

    “This section of Highway 6 sees a great deal of agricultural traffic, especially during peak times of the growing season,” Tagert said. “Replacing the bridges along this route is vital to the efficient movement of goods and services throughout the region.”

    Work also continues on two projects to replace multiple bridges on State Route 32 in Tallahatchie County. The first project will replace three bridges and several small drainage structures along Highway 32. The project also calls for the construction of a new bridge over the railroad just east of Webb. MDOT anticipates this project will be complete in fall 2018.

    The second project will replace two bridges approximately two and a half miles west of Highway 35. MDOT expects this project to be complete in fall 2017.

    MDOT plans to let a third project to contract that will replace seven bridges along State Route 32. MDOT is finalizing the plans for this project, but no estimated completion date has been set.

    “The 12 bridges on State Route 32 that will be replaced have been repaired multiple times and are posted at 15 tons or less,” said MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath. “These are steel beam bridges with timber pilings that were built in the late 1940s. Weather, wear and tear have made them a safety hazard for motorists.”

    Funding for these bridge replacement projects was made available through funds from the passage of House Bill 1630, known as the “Gaming Bill,” during the 2015 Legislative Session.

    MDOT is also moving forward with a project to replace the Tallahatchie River Bridge on State Route 6 in Panola County. This project will replace the existing Tallahatchie River Bridge as well as the relief bridges into a single 3,300-foot long bridge. The new bridge will be on a new alignment, just south of the existing bridge. This project also includes the realignment and reconstruction of other minor structures within the project limits, as well as 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 anticipates this project to be complete in late fall 2018.

    Other major construction projects in District 2 include the following.

    • State Route 6 and State Route 7 Cable Barrier Installation in Lafayette County
      Crews continue work on a project that will install cable median barriers on State Route 6 from Jackson Avenue to University Avenue, and on State Route 7 from just north of the Belk Boulevard intersection to the four-lane section past State Route 30. New fill material is being added to the medians to raise the flow line. New drainage inlets will also be added to the median on State Route 6. Work is expected to be complete in spring 2018.
    • 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. Crews are currently working on grading, drainage and bridge work. The project will also add an interchange at Industrial Road and the realignment of Cayce Road. MDOT anticipates this project to be complete in summer 2018.
    • U.S. Highway 51 Coldwater River Bridge Replacement in Tate County
      This project will replace the existing 1,100-foot bridge with a new 2,000-foot bridge and raise the roadway by four feet to prevent future flooding. Currently, crews have completed driving the majority of the new bridge piles, and continue to finish dirt and drainage work. The bridge was originally scheduled for replacement in November 2016; however, damage sustained to the bridge during a March 2016 flood event caused MDOT to close the bridge and move the project timeline forward. A signed detour route is in place directing motorists to use Interstate 55 between Hernando and Coldwater. MDOT anticipates the project will be complete in mid-winter 2017.
    • Interstate 269 in DeSoto and Marshall Counties
      Construction of the Interstate 269 project is on schedule in North Mississippi. This is the largest active MDOT construction project in the state. Dirt and bridgework for the entire Interstate 269 corridor is complete. Crews are currently working on paving the sections of the project that have not been paved. MDOT expects Interstate 269 to be open for traffic in fall 2018. The first section of Interstate 269, from State Route 302 to the Tennessee state line in Marshall County, was opened to traffic on October 23, 2015.

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

    For more information about MDOT construction projects, visit MDOTtraffic.com, download the free MDOT Traffic mobile app, call Mississippi 511 or like and follow @MississippiDOT on Facebook and Twitter.

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