Traffic in Perkinston, while already a bit confusing because of construction, will be altered dramatically when the new Perkinston Boulevard is completed.
With construction entering its 15th month, the four-lane road, which will serve as the new entrance to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Perkinston campus, could reasonably be complete by May 1.
“With good weather, we could be wrapped up in approximately 50 days,” said Stone County Engineer Jon Bond.
Upon completion, several benefits will accrue, not only to the college, but to the Stone County School District and the community of Perkinston as well.
“The college will have a very beautiful and dramatic entrance with more direct access to Hwy. 49, Perkinston Elementary School will have safer bus routes and there will likely be much less traffic in the community’s neighborhoods,” Bond said. “As things now stand, at least half of the buses leaving the elementary school are crossing the railroad tracks in town and that’s not good, no matter how you look at it.”
Stone County Board of Supervisors President and District 3 Supervisor Lance Pearson, in whose district the project is located, said it was a win-win situation.
“It’s going to benefit the college, the residents and, eventually, businesses,” he said. “It should provide the opportunity for development along and surrounding the boulevard.”
The $6.4 million project was conceived of more than 18 years ago and has gone by the wayside and been revived no less than two times.
There have been land swaps between the Stone County Board of Supervisors and private landowners as well as commercial development plans which never came to fruition.
“The Centennial Project of a few years ago revived the idea,” Bond said. “When that fell through, the college and the county still wanted to move forward.”
They were able to do so because of a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $5.4 million from the Mississippi Development Authority and a $1 million match from MGCCC.
The Centennial Project plans had called for mixed-use development with retail, office and residential aspects.
Many of those details had to be eliminated in order to make construction more economically feasible.
“We removed lights, a bike path and some other infrastructure,” Bond said.
The way the project is laid out, traffic in the area should be much smoother while there will still be access to the Perkinston post office and Perk-Silver Run Road.
Exits from Hwy. 49 will remain, allowing the same access now enjoyed by drivers.
There will also be dedicated deceleration lanes both northbound and southbound and dedicated lanes guiding vehicles either onto Hwy. 49 or back to Perk-Silver Run Road when leaving the college
In other road improvement news, work has begun on East McHenry Road.
“We have begun Phase 2 of widening and paving a three-mile section,” Bond said.
He said residents in the area will be able to get to their homes, but can expect some delays with traffic restricted at time to one lane.
“There are three bridges we have to replace and, while they are out of commission, there will be detours,” he said.
Bond asked that non-residents avoid the area.
“Please, if you don’t need to be there, don’t,” he said. “If you do need to be there, please be careful.”