Money problems could delay road projects

By Staff
The Star: Let's move to the Meridian/Lauderdale County I-20/59 Industrial Park. Why won't the Federal Highway Administration pay for an environmental study for an I-20/59 exit?
Hall: The Federal Highway Administration determined that since they had not been sent the contract between the city of Meridian and the engineer to do this work that they couldn't participate. Their reason for that is that this is an interstate.
We, MDOT, dropped the ball. The (project) engineer and the city submitted this stuff to MDOT and MDOT didn't, as they should have, turn around and submit it to the Federal Highway Administration. So, the Federal Highway Administration said, "We ain't participating."
The Star: Why is Meridian taking the lead in the interchange project?
Hall: This project is what we call an LPA Local Public Agency. It got to where MDOT sometimes got too bureaucratic that work just gets stacked up. So local governments said, more and more, "Let us do it. Let us put these things together."
So … we allow the local government to administer the project. We don't have constant supervision over it. When the project is complete, the engineer they hire and the city has to certify that it was done to our standards and specifications.
The Star: Why not let Lauderdale County take the lead on the project?
Hall: The mayor volunteered to do it, showed interest in doing it. I don't recall the county ever approaching me about it. They are supportive of it.
The Star: Work began on the industrial park two years ago and still no interchange exists. Is this unusual?
Hall: Very. I don't know if it's jinxed or what. It just seems to be constantly running into something it hadn't run in before. And, of course, there has apparently been lot of commotion about it.
My observation is it certainly would run a lot more smoothly if more folks pulled together.
You know, it's kind of odd. Up until recently, your political leadership, I always thought, pulled together pretty good. As far as county, city and people being able to work together, (this was) one of the better places. I don't know what's happened.
The Star: Why are Sweet Gum Bottom Road and Murphy Road, which were both rejected by MDOT, still among possible locations for an I-20/59 exit?
Hall: MDOT looked at it in 2000. This engineering firm, they've not looked at it before.
The Star: What is your opinion of Engineering Associates, which is doing the environmental study for the proposed interchange?
Hall: There are six or eight firms in the state that could do this and they are certainly one them. They are a division of Pickering out of Memphis that has done a tremendous amount of work in Tennessee. They have done everything they are supposed to do.
The Star: What happens next?
Hall: First, we complete the environmental work on the remaining alternatives. Once that's done, we'll set up another public hearing. From this, all the information will be gathered and a decision made. I'd say (this could be done) before the end of the year.
The Star: Who is in charge of the project?
Hall: It is still being administered by the city of Meridian.

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