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Four-laning of Highway 84 east should be done by March 2004

MONTICELLO — The temperature hovered just above freezingThursday morning as a large crowd of state and local officials andLawrence County residents gathered to celebrate the beginningstages of construction on the Highway 84 four-laning project.

Mayor David Nichols opened the ceremony. In deference to theweather, Nichols said he would keep his remarks short whileunfolding a computer printout of 10 pages. The joke brought a laughfrom those in attendance. Nichols did, however, keep his remarksshort, briefly describing the steps that led to the project and itsimportance to Southwest Mississippi.

“Today marks a very historic day for Lawrence County andMississippi,” he said. “We’re glad to move forward on this after anumber of years of waiting. Lawrence County has always been animportant part of the state in terms of the transportation ofgoods.”

Nichols made a quick reference to Monticello’s importance in theearly days of the territory and state, citing the St. Stephens Roadas a major artery from the east to Natchez.

District 91 Rep. Joey Hudson echoed Nichols’ sentiments.

“This is indeed a great day for Lawrence County andMississippi,” he said.

Hudson said the most common question he fielded from countyresidents was “When will the Highway 84 project begin?”

“It begins now,” he said.

Other residents, he said, would say it would be a cold day inJuly before construction began.

“They didn’t miss it by much,” he added and laughed.

Hudson called the 1987 Highway Program, of which Highway 84 is apart, one the most important pieces of legislation in recent yearsand said he was proud to have part of its implementation.

District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, who served on the transportationboard when the Highway 87 Program was passed, recalled a story hehad read of a European duke who traveled through the state in the1850s. The duke marveled that despite the size of the state, whichwas as big as some European countries, there were no roads into theinterior to promote economic development.

“Now, more than 150 years later, I am proud to say we haveaddressed that issue and demonstrated the great patience ofMississippians of which he also wrote about,” Moak said.

District 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said it was “a cold day, butit’s a good day.”

While the county celebrates it’s good fortune, she said, itshould not forget the sacrifices made by those who made the projectpossible. Many residents lost their homes or had their land splitin order for the four-laning to extend from the Lincoln County lineto the Highway 27 Bypass.

“They need to be thanked for their sacrifices,” she said. “It isbecause of them we can progress.”

Sen. Bob Dearing, chairman of the Senate Highways andTransportation Committee, said with the completion of the 1987Highway Program he is looking forward to another piece oflegislation that may emerge from this year’s session.

“The Visions 21 Program does something rather unique,” he said.”It proposes to build highways where they are needed rather thanwhere they are needed politically.”

He said the Highway 84 portion of the project was not apolitical portion of the 1987 Highway Program, however, but wasrecognized even then as a state need.

Southern District Transportation Commissioner Wayne Brown saidthe most impressive aspect of the Highway 84 project so far was thecooperation among everyone involved.

He went on to say that the four-laning will make travel betweenMonticello and Brookhaven much safer.

“This four-lane highway will be five times safer than a two-lanehighway,” he said. “We will save lives with this highway.”

He also told residents to expect certain delays while theconstruction was ongoing and cautioned them to be safe.

The project is expected to be completed by March 2004.