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Residents brace for increased traffic during shopping season

By Staff
TRAFFIC TROUBLE n Meridian police and state transportation officials say holiday shoppers could face serious traffic jams at the North Frontage Road and South Frontage Road intersections that lead to the new Wal-Mart SuperCenter. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Sheila Blackmon and Brian Harper/The Meridian Star
Nov. 23, 2001
When the Christmas shopping season starts today, John Raley of Meridian knows where he won't be during the day: shopping at Bonita Lakes Mall or Wal-Mart SuperCenter.
Raley said he fears traffic jams and accidents will increase this year especially after the new Wal-Mart opened last month near the mall.
Raley isn't alone. Others from Meridian and surrounding areas said they also worry about a likely increase in traffic concentrated along North Frontage and South Frontage roads near the mall and Wal-Mart.
Ricky May, a district engineer in Newton for the Mississippi Department of Transportation, said MDOT has studied the South Frontage Road intersection that leads to Wal-Mart.
May said improvements are "in the works" for the Wal-Mart intersection.
Improving traffic
May said one way to ease traffic problems in the area to is make North Frontage and South Frontage roads one-way streets. Portions of both now handle two-way traffic between 22nd Avenue and Highway 39.
Meridian law enforcement officers also are concerned about possible traffic problems.
Detective Deano Harper, spokesman for the Meridian Police Department, said that the Wal-Mart intersection at South Frontage Road could become as crowded as it was when the store opened Oct. 24.
So far, Harper said, no traffic accidents have been reported at the intersection.
Harper said MPD doesn't have a strategic plan to ease traffic jams during the holiday buying season because police must focus on crimes such as burglaries and shoplifting.
Finding solutions
Harper said police may monitor a stop light if motorists complain that it works too slow. If officers direct traffic, he said, their presence can sometimes slow rather than speed the flow.
Shoppers, though, still hope the city does something about traffic this year. Lindsay Speed of Meridian said she found the traffic lights confusing at the Wal-Mart intersection on South Frontage Road.
Tommy Townsend of Meridian said he doubts anyone can improve the traffic along South Frontage Road. Plus, he said, motorists frequently run stop signs at the Wal-Mart parking lot entrance.