By NATHAN GREGORY
According to a report from Mississippi Department of Transportation Dist. 1 Supervisor Bill Jamieson to Starkville City Engineer Edward Kemp, MDOT currently has plans within the next two years to use state money to overlay to Highway 182, but encroachments and lack of funding sources are inhibiting any rebuilding of the highway to take place.
Plans were discussed to do the overlay this summer, but due to a shortfall of state funds, MDOT began looking to federal monies to cover the project, Jamieson said.
“Due to a shortfall of state money, we were using federal money on this overlay. When we began to develop plans we learned that there were numerous encroachments within the right-of-way,” Jamieson said in the report. “These encroachments would have to be removed in order to continue with our plans. By state law, it is the responsibility of the city to remove encroachments.”
A report from MDOT on the status of overlay plans were provided at the Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday at the request of Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins. Perkins requested MDOT Northern District Commissioner Mike Tagert be at the meeting to give the report, but Tagert was unavailable. Kemp and Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill presented the report on his behalf.
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said a basic overlay of the highway does nothing to improve its long-deteriorating condition.
“There are things that I think need to happen above and beyond just a simple overlay. That road was a two-lane concrete road. There are significant drainage issues,” Dumas said. “There are significant access issues when you look at certain blocks that have horrific parking situations. (Commissioner Tagert and I) met and one of the biggest issues from the MDOT side (is) there are 38 encroachments … when they lay their right of way out. They cannot get an ounce of federal dollars until those encroachments are removed.
“In some cases there are buildings that would have to be physically removed from the right of way … do that opens up the discussion of where they go from here in using state dollars because they don’t have that restriction on state funding. What it brings us back to is what we do with it,” he said. “Do we overlay it or do we begin the conversation of how we fix these encroachments? Frankly, a lot of these 38 are the things we hear more than once are some of the significant problems of blight and unsightly features along Highway 182, and I think it’s a great leverage to get some of these things removed. In addition to that, I think there’s an opportunity here where we can look at sidewalk development, curbs, a number of controlled access points.”
Kemp said the surface conditions are such that work needs to be done in the short-term before the road further deteriorates.
“You can see the old joints where the concrete is. If you ride down, you can feel the bumps. You can see the old center line in the middle lane. It is going to continue to be a problem. MDOT’s maintenance in the past has been an overlay, (but if one is done), those joints will come back to the surface in a matter of weeks,” Kemp said. “With those joints or cracks, water starts to intrude and they start to fray away and deteriorate more over time. It is a long-term maintenance problem. The best way is to rebuild it from the ground up, but it is prohibitively expensive to do that.”
Referencing a recent redirecting of city funds to renovate Critz Street at a cost of $100,000, Dumas said finding a reasonable solution to fixing the surface is a significant issue.
“I’ve heard somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million in looking through the process of reconstructing this road. (We need to begin) the process of just doing what we can so we can contextually get this thing in shape as we begin to develop over the long term,” Dumas said. “I don’t under any circumstance want to just come in, mill the top of it, overlay it, leave it the way it is and then six months after we overlay we’re right back where we are right now with a significantly deteriorating road because of the situation it’s in. Commissioner Tagert is doing everything he can to look at this, but we have to be steadfast in what we do as well.
“Those (concrete) panels are shifting and breaking underneath, so I would imagine it would go right back to the state it’s in (if a basic overlay is done),” he said. “I think the idea of reconstructing this road completely at this point with MDOT, with federal funds, with city funds, with anything we have, unless somebody donates $40 million is completely out of the question. $100,000 for Critz doesn’t touch a $40 million project on 182.”
Dumas said he wants to develop ideas to get a consistent right of way along the entire length of the highway from Old West Point Road to Long Street in a future meeting.
“(We need to) discuss with MDOT on how we begin to get a unified right of way and address the encroachment issues sometime in the next three or four board meetings,” he said. “I don’t want it to get to august and not have a report back on what possibilities there are.”