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Hall: Newton Wal-Mart could
stall traffic on Highway 15

By Staff
GETTING IN AND OUT Kenny Middleton, of KLM Services in Laurel, works on the entrance to the new Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Newton. The new shopping center is next to Interstate 20, on Highway 15, where traffic concerns are being raised by highway officials. The store is scheduled to open in early 2004. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
Sept. 15, 2003
NEWTON While workers continue construction of the new Wal-Mart SuperCenter just south of Interstate 20, state highway officials worry the store may be more of a problem than a blessing.
State Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall said Wal-Mart needs more than one entrance and exit. He also said it is the responsibility of the city of Newton to widen Highway 15 from two lanes to avoid traffic problems.
Construction of the new Wal-Mart began in May. The new store is west of Highway 15 and just south of the I-20 exit; it will replace an older Wal-Mart store on U.S. 80 near downtown Newton.
Wal-Mart spokesman Daphne Moore said the new store is scheduled to open in early 2004. Moore said the company has no plans to add another entrance and exit from the store's parking lot.
Hall said Highway 15 is scheduled to be widened sometime in the future, but he isn't sure when the project will begin. Hall said he has talked to the city of Newton and hopes officials find a solution.
Newton Mayor Preston "Hamp" Beatty said he is aware of Hall's concerns. Beatty said he is willing to work with the Mississippi Department of Transportation to find a solution to the potential traffic problems on Highway 15.
Beatty said there is a possibility for an additional access road to the new Wal-Mart, but he isn't sure Newton can afford to build it.
The mayor also said Wal-Mart is aware of the Hall's concerns, but officials want to wait and see if the new store causes traffic flow to stop. If there is a problem, Beatty said, Wal-Mart may help find a solution.
Beatty said he also has explored the possibility of a community development block grant to pay for an additional entrance. But, he said, those grants are used primarily for infrastructure and industry.