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Engineering firm defends interchange

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
July 23, 2003
Three representatives of a Jackson engineering firm updated the Meridian City Council on Tuesday about plans to build a controversial interchange to benefit a new industrial park off Interstate 20/59.
Carl Ray Furr, Edward A. Bailey and W. Hugh Long all with Engineering Associates showed several routes they are working on to provide an I-20/59 interchange that would link U.S. 11/80 and Highway 19.
Furr, Bailey and Long said $6 million in federal money earmarked for the interchange was specifically set aside for what is commonly called the Hawkins Crossing project.
They said the project would lose the $6 million about half of the total cost if an interchange for the industrial park was built anywhere else. "That's the only place we can use that money," Furr said.
Furr, Bailey and Long's presentation came one day after Meridian resident Roy Hurst questioned Lauderdale County supervisors about the project.
Hurst's concerns
Hurst said he and other residents want to know who picked the interchange site and why it runs through a private industrial park land Hurst said is owned by Great South Development Inc.
According to the Mississippi Secretary of State's office the principal agents of Great South Development are: James E. Covington, director and president; Richard H. Howarth Jr., incorporator; Robert E. Luke, director, vice president and treasurer; and James Alexander, director and secretary.
Hurst alleges that there are also silent partners who stand to benefit from the interchange location.
Interchange details
Based on information he said he has gathered from federal and state transportation departments in Mississippi and Alabama, Hurst said the federal guidelines are not set in concrete and that exceptions to interchange locations are commonly made.
Long, a former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, said MDOT chose the location of the interchange before Engineering Associates became involved.
Bailey said that while the location of the interchange on the interstate in or near Hawkins Crossing Road is "tied down," the connections to US 80 and Mississippi Highway 19 has flexibility.
A public hearing concerning the interchange will be scheduled, possibly in August or September, according to Engineering Associates.