County considering moving forward with second phase of Reunion interchangeBy MEGAN PHILLIPS,
The Madison County board of supervisors is considering moving forward with the Reunion interchange, phase 2.
The Reunion interchange would serve as another access to I-55 for north Madison and Gluckstadt residents, and it would connect Bozeman Road to Parkway East.
Now, officials want to allocate $500,000 from the new county budget for the 2018 fiscal year to go toward the Reunion interchange. But the county has to work with the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) to get things going.
According to District 2 Supervisor Trey Baxter, MDOT has said multiple times that the interchange will not be built until the department receives gas tax money from the legislature.
“They said the county can build a bridge across the interstate and at some point we will build ramps.”
But the ramps are what make the interchange a necessity for north Madison and Gluckstadt residents to have an alternate route to the interstate, without needing to drive north and south on Bozeman Road and east and west on Mississippi Highway 463/Madison Avenue, where traffic reaches capacity during school carpool times.
Otherwise, Reunion phase 2 would not be a 1.5-mile interchange, but would simply be a bridge from Bozeman Road to Parkway East.
“The interchange can’t be built until the highway is six lanes… We don’t have the money to think about doing that right now,” MDOT Commissioner Dick Hall said. But Hall said someday it’s going to need to be done. “It’d be nice if it could be done yesterday, but we don’t have the money to do it. The interstate has to be six lanes before the interchange can be built… It’s the whole package.”
In past years, work was completed for the project’s design and engineering, according to county engineer Dan Gaillet.
“A lot of work was done on this project under the previous administration,” he said. “With that, we will have to take a step back and look at what was done…”
In June, Jim Hust, a State Aid engineer for Madison County, suggested county officials create a new design based off the old design for the project.
“We would suggest you take the existing work and assume you can use as much as you can, evaluate that, and create 60 percent design for the new project.”
Now, Gaillet has asked supervisors to allow him to speak with MDOT and Federal Highway Administration officials about moving project forward before the board takes $500,000 from the new budget.
“We haven’t allocated the $500,000 yet,” Baxter said. “I wanted Dan Gaillet to meet with MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration to get our ducks in a row and see if they will let us build it before we borrow money.”
“I would recommend we visit the Federal Highway Administration and MDOT to make sure we’re on the same page, and move toward hiring engineer,” Gaillet said. “We’ll see what it is we have to do from the design standards and go through the process of environmental (studies), public hearings, and engineering.”
The board unanimously approved Gaillet’s recommendation.