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Officials say highway bypasses won’t hurt downtown business

MONTICELLO — Fears that highway bypasses may hurt downtownrestaurants and businesses here are unwarranted, according to localofficials and business owners.

The completion of the Highway 27 bypass around town and thefuture construction of a Highway 84 bypass sparked concern amongsome residents that moving the two highways out of the town maykill the downtown area.

Local officials and business owners, however, do not seem toshare that concern.

“We have some nice restaurants in our city, so I don’t see anyreason why those bypasses should affect us at all. Any Monticellobusiness really,” said J.L. Beeson, owner of Jay’s Restaurant onBroad Street.

Paul McLain, director of the Lawrence County CommunityDevelopment Association, did more than agree with Beeson. He saidthe road work may actually improve business.

“Basically, four-lane highways tend to foster and supporteconomic development,” he said. “What I’ve heard from the businesscommunity is that it will actually help, because the big trucktraffic we have now will sometimes impede the free movement ofcustomers in the downtown area. By taking away the truck trafficand having at least one four-lane highway very close by, it wouldmake the downtown area better and safer for shopping.”

The Highway 84 bypass is part of an ongoing project begun in1987 to make a four-lane corridor from east to west across thestate and use Highway 84 as that corridor. A groundbreakingceremony was held a week ago to celebrate the beginning ofconstruction along the latest portion of that construction –four-laning Highway 84 from Monticello to the Lincoln Countyline.

“A four-lane highway is a major factor in attracting industry,there’s no question of that,” McLain said.

Beeson said the four-laning of Highway 84, even if it takes thehighway from his front door, won’t effect his business.

“It ain’t going to hurt me. I see this as a good opportunity forus as a town to hustle up some new businesses and industries,”Beeson said. “I’ve heard that per capita Monticello has morerestaurants than just about any other town its size. I don’tattribute that to the traffic. I attribute that to the(Georgia-Pacific) mill.”

Also in the planning and development stages is a movement bylocal officials, led by Mayor David Nichols, to four-lane Highway27 from the Louisiana line north to Crystal Springs. This projectwould enhance efforts in Louisiana to create an evacuation corridorfrom New Orleans and is under consideration in Washington.

Officials say the project looks hopeful. Should they succeed,Monticello would be the crossroads of two important east-west andnorth-south four-lane highways.

“A four-lane highway will put us on the list of some industrialprospects where we weren’t before,” McLain said. “And a secondfour-lane, if it does happen, would have a tremendous effect.”