Light plan for I-55 exits needs money

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 22, 2004

Prospects of Brookhaven getting lights for its interstateinterchanges appear uncertain as the city pursues other projectswith its share of transportation funds, officials said.

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron has asked engineering officialsto look into how lights could be installed at the Interstate 55interchanges in and near Brookhaven. He said lights have beeninstalled at interchanges in McComb and Hazlehurst, and a similarproject here could also enhance Brookhaven.

“Brookhaven is growing, and we can use something like this,”said Cameron, adding that the lights would help motorists andenhance the city’s attractiveness.

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Mississippi Department of Transportation mentioned some optionsfor the lighting project.

One would be Surface Transportation Funds that cities withpopulations of over 5,000 receive through the state. Robbie Burt,engineer with MDOT’s Planning Division, said the TransportationCommission makes the funds, which come to the state in the federalhighway bill, available to the municipalities.

How much cities is based on the 2000 census in relation to othercities that also get a share of the funds. The funds can beaccumulated over four years and be spent on such projects as streetpaving, adding traffic lanes, intersection improvements or newroads, Burt said.

“We leave that up to the cities to decide what their prioritiesand needs are,” Burt said.

MDOT officials said Brookhaven has accumulated $512,000. Cameronsaid the STP funds were “very interesting,” and he would like tofind out some more information.

“If we can do it that way, we need to get an estimate and knowwhat kind of money we’re talking about,” Cameron said.

However, City Engineer Carl Ray Furr said using STP funds wouldbe a matter of using the city’s share of money on a state andfederal route. He said Brookhaven’s STP funds have been planned tobe used for local projects such as upcoming downtown street pavingand traffic signal improvements.

“We don’t have any STP money for the next three or four years,”Furr said.

Furr said he is working on a request to the transportationcommission for the state agency to do the interchange lightingproject. However, the engineer has said state officials do notconsider interchange lighting a high priority.

Another option MDOT officials mentioned was transportationenhancement funds. Those funds are available on a competitivebasis.

Randy Dickerson, district pre-construction engineer with theMDOT office in McComb, said enhancement funds are limited. Heindicated a city may want to consider other funding sources besidesthe enhancement money.

“There’s not a lot, and it’s spread pretty thin,” Dickersonsaid.

Currently, only the Brookway Boulevard intersection interchangeis within the city limits. However, two other interchanges on UnionStreet Extension and on Highway 84 are in a proposed annexationarea that is awaiting a court decision.

Cameron was hopeful that the interchanges could be lighted.

“If we don’t get anything but the boulevard, that would befine,” Cameron said.