Local business leaders are up in arms about the Mississippi Department of Transportation's plans to close the Hall Street crossover at Hwy. 49.
Wynn Alexander, owner of DeSoto Land and Timber, approached the Stone County Board of Supervisors, the City of Wiggins Board of Aldermen and the Stone County Economic Development Partnership asking each to support an effort to get MDOT to reconsider its decision.
Each of those entities has agreed and passed resolutions asking for said reconsideration.
Alexander has taken part in organizing a meeting with MDOT Southern District Commissioner Tom King and his engineering staff.
That meeting will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Western Sizzlin' restaurant on East Frontage Drive.
"I'm very appreciative of Mr. king setting this thing up and coming down here with his engineers," Alexander said.
The public is invited to the meeting.
"Closing off that intersection will adversely impact businesses all along Hall Street and those located on either Frontage Drive as well," Alexander said. "Those traveling south would have to go all the way to Magnolia Drive and come back to access those businesses and those traveling north would have to go to the light at the Walmart entrance and make a U-turn.
Alexander said he'd consulted with an engineering firm which is well-respected by MDOT and their first recommendation had been to do nothing with the intersection.
"Leave it as it is, that's what they recommended," he said.
He then produced the engineering report, revealing that it was conducted by MDOT's own engineers.
Alexander would like to see a light installed at the intersection.
Told MDOT was planning to erect a traffic light at the Hwy. 49 and Magnolia Drive intersection, he replied, "If they want one at Magnolia Drive, then put one there, we're worried about Hall Street."
Alexander said there were definite safety issues which needed to be addressed but he thought closing the crossover was an over-the-top response to a more easily remedied problem.
"They are also planning an acceleration and deceleration lane for accessing that intersection and that's a good start," he said. "There's been 30 accidents at that intersection over six years; that's five accidents per year and there's been one fatality."
Wiggins Mayor Jerry Alexander has been after MDOT for some time to address the problems at the intersection.
He would like to see reduced speed limits on Hwy. 49 within the city limits.
"They've got reduced speed limits in Collins and Magee but they damn sure won't reduce the speed limit in Wiggins and I'd like to know why," he said angrily. "I don't know what it's going to take to get them to slow that traffic down."
A curve and a hill negotiated by northbound traffic makes the intersection a particularly difficult one to navigate.
Vehicles moving northbound do not seem to be traveling near as fast as they actually are, causing a false sense of security for drivers entering the highway at Hall Street.
The Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution Monday asking MDOT to address the safety issues at the intersection, "without negatively impacting the economy of the City of Wiggins or Stone County."
"You've got to be sympathetic to the safety concerns of the citizens but, at the same time, Stone County and the City of Wiggins have traditionally struggled with economic advancement," said District 1 Supervisor Joseph Davenport. "Anything that would deter economic opportunity would have to be, in my opinion, a bad thing.
"I would hope MDOT and its engineers would look at this situation from all sides."