Work begins on new interstate lights

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 30, 2009

The orange and white barrels warning motorists of road work havebeen placed along Interstate 55 at Exit 40, heavy machinery ispunching holes in the earth and work on a new lighting system forBrookhaven’s main interchange has begun.

Mississippi Department of Transportation Project Engineer DalStell said contractors have begun pouring the concrete foundationsthat will support four high-mast and 13 low-most lights along theoverpass and all four on/off ramps at Exit 40, a project that willexpose the interchange beneath the glow of 41 separate lights andclearly mark Brookhaven for nighttime travelers.

Stell said primary contractor Webster Electric Co. Inc., ofMeridian, and sub-contractor Hart Drilling, of Jackson, areexpected to finish preparing the high-mast foundations Thursday andshould begin work on low-mast foundations in the coming weeks. Hesaid the project, which began earlier this month, is scheduled forcompletion by Nov. 1.

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“They have their poles on order and they’re being fabricatedright now,” Stell said. “Right now, they are on schedule, butdepending on when the manufacturer gets the poles delivered, theymight get a little ahead of schedule.”

MDOT District Engineer Darrell Broome said his agency is fullyfunding the approximately $500,000 project. The move represents apolicy shift the agency decided on because of safety concerns andthe availability of funding.

“Safety is the basic driving force for everything,” he said.”Our past policy has been that we haven’t installed for anyone. Wedid a little with McComb, but McComb paid the majority of theproject, maintained it and paid for the electric power. We paidaround 10 percent, where we’re paying 100 percent on Brookhaven. Wefelt like it would help the community.”

The city and county will split future costs for maintenance andelectricity.

The completion of the project will definitely make Exit 40 amore visible interchange.

Webster Electric Co. Inc. President and owner Steve Webster saidthe 130-foot high-mast and 40-foot low-most lights will producethree to five foot-candles of light, equivalent to the lightproduced in the parking lots of new grocery stores. He said thehigh-mast structures would alight the median, while the low-mastswill run along the on/off ramps.

Each mast will be fitted with a steel cable lowering mechanism,Webster said, allowing crews to bring the light fixtures earthwardlike lower a flag from a flagpole, allowing easy bulb-changing andmaintenance.

City and county officials were first informed of the project’sapproval in January, and are now pleased to see the project underway.

Brookhaven Mayor Bob Massengill expects the forthcoming lightsto improve safety and have a positive impact on the local economyas more nighttime travelers duck into Brookhaven for pit stops. Hesaid more than 27,000 vehicles travel Brookway Boulevard daily, andmany of those come into town from Interstate 55.

“We really feel like it’s going to help us in both of thoseareas,” he said. “In the evenings, it will let folks know thatBrookhaven is a place where they can come off the interstate andeither spend the night, eat supper or fill up with gas.”

Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop said the newlighting system at Exit 40 would do for Brookhaven what interstatelights have done for every community across the country that hasthem.

“It’s going to be an invitation to stop,” he said. “I’ve saidseveral times it’s still dark out there, and that’s about tochange.

“It just goes to show you that when get a chamber of commercethat recognizes the economic benefits from a project and you coupleit with two local government agencies, the city and county; ourlegislators and a state agency, MDOT; then you really should beable to get something done.”