U.S. House OKs $1 million for I-20/59 exit
By By Terry R. Cassreino/The Meridian Star
Dec. 1, 2001
Preliminary work on a planned Interstate 20/59 exit for Lauderdale County's new industrial park could begin early next year after federal funding is approved by President Bush.
The U.S. House voted Friday to spend $1 million on engineering, environmental studies and land acquisition for the interchange the first step before construction can begin in about two years.
The U.S. Senate is expected to approve the money next week, sending it to Bush for his signature.
Jones, other economic development officials and area business leaders hope to develop the new industrial park near I-20/59 into a site that will lure new companies and create hundreds of jobs.
One key to the plan: A new I-20/59 interchange at the industrial park, to be built between the Highway 39 and U.S. 45 exits. State and local leaders could not estimate the construction cost.
They did say the preliminary work would be covered by the $1 million federal appropriation.
Dick Hall, the Central District state transportation commissioner, said the federal government likely will pay 90 percent of the construction costs. The state will pay the rest.
Even though preliminary work could start early next year, Hall said, actual construction might not begin for nearly two more years and then last another year to 18 months.
U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., praised the House vote, saying the interchange is badly needed in East Mississippi. Pickering represents the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Meridian.
The $1 million for the exit was included in the 2002 Transportation Appropriations Conference Report, a proposal that also had a total of $91 million for Mississippi projects.
Other projects included $8.9 million for new roads near the Jackson airport; $2.6 million for railroad improvements on the Coast; and $9 million to build Interstate 69 in North Mississippi.
Jones, who praised the state's congressional delegation, said the I-20/59 exit couldn't come any sooner: "It provides immediate access to the park . . . and that's important. "
Terry R. Cassreino is assistant managing editor for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3232, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.