3 On Your Side Investigates: Road Projects Under Construction

WLBT examines five high-impact roadways and what’s holding them up

3 On Your Side Investigates: Road Projects Under Construction

JACKSON METRO AREA, MS (WLBT) - Mike English, owner of Ross Furniture on Highway 80 in Flowood, was thrilled when construction started on the four-lane West Rankin Parkway.

“I’d love to see this road open," he says from inside his store, which sits feet from where the parkway will intersect with Highway 80 at Pearson Road. He knows it could be a virtual conveyor belt for new customers from Lakeland Drive, east Rankin County, and northeast Jackson looking for high-end furnishings.

Mike English, owner of Ross Furniture, talks about the unfinished West Rankin Parkway (Source: WLBT)
Mike English, owner of Ross Furniture, talks about the unfinished West Rankin Parkway (Source: WLBT)

“We have been excited about the road coming through, and then we’ve been disappointed to know that there were some construction issues," he says.

Barricades and tall grass block access to uncompleted West Rankin Parkway next to Ross Furniture in Flowood (Source: WLBT)
Barricades and tall grass block access to uncompleted West Rankin Parkway next to Ross Furniture in Flowood (Source: WLBT)

West Rankin Parkway is a $7 million, 3-and-a-half-mile road to Treetops Boulevard. Construction on the first of two phases began in the summer of 2014, but then it stopped when the contractor sued in a dispute over payment. That still hasn’t been settled. In addition, the Mississippi Department of Transportation says there were some design and construction flaws related to drainage. The state agency wants those addressed before the road can be paved and opened to traffic.

Pearl Mayor Jake Windham says he has pleaded with MDOT to proceed with the next phase, even as the litigation over the first phase works its way through the system. For now, West Rankin is just a road bed quickly being overtaken by weeds and grass.

Unfinished parkway running between Flowood Drive at Treetops Boulevard and Highway 80 at Pearson Road (Source: WLBT)
Unfinished parkway running between Flowood Drive at Treetops Boulevard and Highway 80 at Pearson Road (Source: WLBT)

WLBT 3 On Your Side took a look at several other major road projects that are under construction or planned in the metro area.

Known for years as the “Byram-to-Clinton Corridor,” the newly renamed Hinds Parkway will run some 18 miles from Norrell Road near Clinton to Siwell Road in Byram. Parts of the project, the overall cost of which was estimated at just under $97 million in a consultant’s report to the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, already exist as other roads, like Siwell, which will be incorporated into the parkway. Another segment is under construction behind the Kroger in Byram, extending up to Parks Road.

Hinds Parkway under construction between Byram and Clinton (Source: WLBT)
Hinds Parkway under construction between Byram and Clinton (Source: WLBT)

It will take millions more to complete the multi-lane parkway that supervisors envision. The effort got a bit of a boost from legislators, who voted in the August special session to give $2 million of BP oil spill settlement money to the project.

In Ridgeland, preliminary infrastructure work has been done on the $32 million extension of Lake Harbour Drive. The four-lane road will soon continue west beyond Highway 51, around Freedom Ridge Park, over Interstate 55, to Highland Colony Parkway at New Pointe Drive. New Pointe will be renamed Lake Harbour once the project is complete.

“You’ll be able to come all the way over from Rankin County and hit Lake Harbour and go all the way to Highland Colony." says Mike McCollum, director of public works for the City of Ridgeland. He says construction of the road itself and the bridge over I-55 could start next spring, with completion possible by mid-2020.

Much further along is another Ridgeland project -- the extension of Colony Park Boulevard. The existing section of Colony Park, from Highland Colony Parkway east to Sunnybrook Road, was entirely new when it was built as part of the recent widening of Interstate 55 between Ridgeland and Madison. It is now being extended east to Highway 51 at McClellan Drive near Hite Wolcott Park. When it opens in November, you’ll be able to exit I-55 and drive east all the way to Old Canton Road. The final leg is costing the city just over $5 million.

Colony Park Boulevard under construction alongside Ridgeland High School (Source: WLBT)
Colony Park Boulevard under construction alongside Ridgeland High School (Source: WLBT)

A Ridgeland transportation study 15 years ago identified the need for both of these east-west roads.

Farther north, Reunion Parkway, which originates at the Annandale subdivision on Highway 463 in Madison, currently ends at the Bozeman Road intersection. There have been numerous proposals to complete it across I-55 with a new interchange, then on to the intersection that has already been built for it on Parkway East, and then to Highway 51 at Green Oak Lane.

Reunion Parkway where it ends at Bozeman Road (Source: WLBT)
Reunion Parkway where it ends at Bozeman Road (Source: WLBT)
Existing intersection on Parkway East (upper right) for not-yet-constructed extension of Reunion Parkway over I-55 (Source: WLBT)
Existing intersection on Parkway East (upper right) for not-yet-constructed extension of Reunion Parkway over I-55 (Source: WLBT)

In the August special session, legislators voted to spend $8 million of BP oil spill money to go at least as far as Parkway East, but it won’t be enough money to build an actual interchange on I-55 -- just a bridge over the highway at first. Interstate exit and entrance ramps and an extension to Highway 51 will have to come another day, if at all.

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