RANKIN COUNTY, Mississippi (WJTV) – Travellers in Rankin County, Mississippi will have a new road to go north and south from Flowood to Pearl and Brandon and vice versa. The pathway is part of a bigger project but it could still be several more years before the project – which was begun 26 year ago – is completed.
With the snap of a pairi of scissors at a ribbon cutting state and local leaders opened phase one of the East Metro Corridor off of Lakeland Drive in Flowood. That was in 2013. On that same corridor today road signs block traffic from driving past a point at El Dorado Road. Mayor Brad Rogers of the City of Pearl says, “We are a little bit ahead of schedule on payment and behind on work but as we get into the drier parts of summer, they’ll catch back up.” Mayor Rogers says the $6.2 million Phase Two should open in late summer or early fall. In the meantime drivers have to continue to Brandon down El Dorado Road, and many worry that it is getting congested. “Any time you have construction in (progress) you’re going to have traffic delays,” Mayor Rogers says, “And I know from our perspective the main thing people fuss about is the four-way stop out there at El Dorado and Old Brandon. Actually the traffic was pretty backed up the other afternoon and I timed it. I was all the way back to Hollow Lane which is a pretty good backup there and it actually took me about five minutes, five to six minutes, to get through it. It seems like a lot longer than what it really is.”
Mayor Rogers says the traffic congestion is an indicator of a growing population. Brandon Mayor Butch Lee agrees. “We’re growing at some unprecedented rate.” he says. “We’ve outgrown Pascagoula, Columbus, Oxford, and Vicksburg.” Likewise, the city of Pearl is growing as well. It is the largest city in Rankin County. Mayor Rogers says, “I think you’re going to see exponentially compounded growth in Rankin County. You know, we’re already struggling to fix roads and open up more roads for the traffic congestion we already have. We’re just attempting to do our part to stay somewhat ahead of the game. Mayor Lee agrees. “Even when you get this open, for something that’s been 21 years in the making to reach this point, let’s say that’s four years from now, three years from now, when the funding comes down to finish the rest of it, we will have outgrown this roadway as well.”
Work is already underway for Phase Three of the project, the final phase that will take the road to Brandon. Rogers says they have 75 to 80-percent of the right-of-ways they will need. “We’ve got one or two parcels that have had some question and debate on the appraisal but for the most part the right of way is purchased. Once that’s done we’ll go for additional funding on the construction.”
Phase Two includes connecting the corridor with Old Brandon Road in Pearl. When this phase is done the four-lane road will continue all the way to Brandon at Exit 54 across Crossgates Boulevard, complete with a traffic light at that intersection and sidewalks. It is a more than $14 million project that, if things go as planned, could be completed in three years or less. Lee adds an important “but,” saying, “(That’s) dependent on funding from our legislature. I believe we’ve got some good folks that see that need an recognize the need for these north-south corridors.”
Lee says that historically Rankin County roads have gone east and west. The corridor – along with work on Highway 471 and the West Rankin Parkway opens up north and south travel. The funding has been pieced together since the project began in 1991. Lee notes that unlike many road projects this one has been paid for primarily with local funds. He hopes it attracts business to the area. Mayor Lee says, “This is good for the airport because it opens up 600 acres in here for development on both sides of the corridor for development of businesses and jobs.
WJTV contacted the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) about the corridor. A statement from JMAA says, in part, “The development of the EASt Metro Parkway continues to be of high importance to our organization because it offers direct access to the airport’s airfield for aviation, related research and development operations, and logistics…We recognize the parkway’s potential to contribute to our airport’s economic development efforts over the next few years.”