Finally! Four-lane work complete between Brookhaven, Natchez

Published 5:00 am Friday, October 19, 2001

McCALL CREEK — Sporting buttons proclaiming “Finally,” stateand area officials Thursday celebrated the four-lane completion ofHighway 84 between Natchez and Brookhaven.

“We’re making history today in southwest Mississippi,” saidstate Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, as cars and trucks zoomed by onthe newly-paved section of road.

Thursday’s ceremony was to commemorate completion ofapproximately seven miles of paving, primarily in eastern FranklinCounty. Paving and grading work totaled approximately $17 millionon the project that was begun in March 1999.

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The Franklin County section was the last link in the four-laningof over 53 miles of Highway 84 between Natchez and Brookhaven.Project cost for the work, done under the 1987 Four-Lane HighwayProgram, totaled almost $81 million.

Dearing said the four-lane project provides the area with adirect link to an interstate and opens up “distinct possibilities”for economic development. Comparing the area toeconomically-successful Golden Triangle of north Mississippi, thesenator hoped southwest Mississippi cities, communities andcounties could work together in landing industry.

“If we can’t get the industry in our county, let’s try to locateit in the southwest Mississippi triangle,” of Natchez, Brookhavenand McComb, Dearing said.

While officials touted economic benefits, they also pointed outimproved safety as a result of four-lane roads.

“It’s a fact that four-lane highways are a lot better as far assafety than two-lane roads,” Dearing said.

In fact, said Southern District Transportation CommissionerWayne Brown, two-lane roads are five times more dangerous thanfour-lane roads.

However, Brown said that shortly after a new four-lane sectionis open, there is an increase in fatalities as motorists adjust tothe new situation. He urged caution during the adjustmentperiod.

“What we need is for the drivers to drive very carefully,” Brownsaid.

Several speakers Thursday recalled legislative battles ingetting the 1987 highway program approved and thanked friends andsupporters for the victory. The program eventually allowed the workthat was celebrated Thursday.

“It was hard thing to do,” said former Southern TransportationCommissioner Bob Joiner about the 1987 program. “It meant raisingtaxes, which wasn’t easy.”

Former Rep. Barney Schoby, a member of the state house at thetime, said the program added to fees on license plates andinspection stickers. However, without the program, he saidsouthwest Mississippi would never have received four-lanehighways.

“That was the best shot to go they want we went,” Schobysaid.

Dist. 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, recalled supportingthe highway program but not necessarily the timetable for work tobe done. Work in southwest Mississippi was in later stages of theprogram.

“Good things finally come to those who wait…,” Moak said. “Ithink it’s going to be something very positive for us.”

While “Finally” was a recurring theme, Dearing expressedappreciation for former U.S. Rep. Mike Parker’s assistance insecuring some federal appropriations to help speed up work in thearea. Without that, Dearing said the work could not have beencompleted until sometime in 2002.

Lincoln County District 4 Supervisor W.D. “Doug” Moak hailed theHighway 84 four-lane project as a great thing for the area.

“It’s an excellent avenue between Brookhaven and Natchez,” Moaksaid.