MDOT acts on speed limit
By Jody O'Hara
May 16, 2013, 10:44
Motorists on Hwy. 49 may have noticed the reduced speed limits in effect since last week.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation installed "Speed Zone Ahead," and "55 mph," signs just south of the Wiggins corporate limit on the southbound lanes and just south of New Hope Road on the northbound lanes.
Alderman-at-Large Joel Miles said it was about time.
"We've been waiting for it," he said. "It should improve the safety on the highway.
"I'd rather get hit at 55 than 65."
MDOT District 6 Engineer Kelly Castleberry said the reduced speed was the result of a traffic study performed after a public meeting attended by himself, members of the community and MDOT Southern District Commissioner Tom King.
Local officials had asked for the meeting to discuss the dangers of the Hwy. 49/Hall Street intersection.
"The study found motorists were not driving the speed limit in that area," Castleberry said. "The average speed in that area was 68.2 or 68.3 mph and, with the improvements we have planned for there, the reduction in speed was warranted."
MDOT intends to install a traffic light, along with other changes, at Hwy. 49 and Magnolia Drive and to close off the median at Hwy. 49 and Hall Street.
An acceleration/deceleration lane will also be added on the northbound side of Hwy. 49 at that intersection.
Castleberry said there would be a flashing light to warn motorists of the new traffic signal and the driveway to the paper plant would be moved back along with other geographical improvements.
"Those improvements are scheduled to go to contracts in September," he said.
MDOT will also pave the frontage road from Woodland Drive south to the new medical complex.
"Part of the project was, if they built the earthwork, we'd pave it at the same time we make the other improvements," Castleberry said.
Wiggins Police CHief Matt Barnett, who has called for reduced speeds almost since he took office, said he was pleased to see the changes.
"I think it's something that should have been done long ago," he said. "There's 64 businesses, churches and a school along Hwy. 49 in the city and we have a tremendous amount of traffic every day.
"I'll be paying attention to see whether the reduced speeds make a difference in the accident rate."
Castleberry said safety should improve in the area if drivers follow the speed limit.
"Assuming motorists are driving 55 instead of 65, they will have improved braking times," he said. "Should another motorist drive precariously, the reduced speed also gives other drivers better reaction time to avoid an accident."
© Copyright 2005