Testing begins for interchange lights

Published 5:00 am Friday, October 9, 2009

Testing is under way for the new high- and low-mast lightsstanding high over Interstate 55 in west Brookhaven, and theeight-month project to illuminate Exit 40 is running ahead ofschedule.

Ed Sansing, an electrical design engineer with the MississippiDepartment of Transportation, said an electrical inspection wasbeing conducted Friday and a 14-day testing period would begin thatnight. Some lights shined brightly over the interchange Thursdaynight in a preview of what is to come.

Sansing said project contractor Webster Electric Co. Inc., ofMeridian, has completed all electrical work and – barring anyfailures during the testing period – full-time lighting for Exit 40has arrived.

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“They’ve got everything pretty much fixed,” Sansing said.”Basically, we’re going to look at each one of the polls andsystems, bring the lights down to make sure they’re working andthen put it on automatic.”

The approximately $500,000 job was paid for by MDOT, with theagreement that Brookhaven and Lincoln County would share futurecosts for maintenance and electricity. Local leaders have soughtthe project for years, but were only able to gain momentum latelast year with the help of District 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

“Last night was the first time I had the opportunity to see theinterstate lit up as I was driving home from the Capitol, and itwas a wonderful sight,” she said Friday morning. “I realized thatthe efforts of so many community leaders had come to fruition.”

Local leaders sought the installation of lighting for Exit 40for economic development reasons, as Brookhaven was one of the onlymajor cities on an interstate in Mississippi that did not haveilluminated interchanges. Traffic estimates place the number ofvehicles traveling Brookway Boulevard daily at 27,000, and many ofthose come from or leave by Exit 40.

“This will illuminate our community for nighttime travelers, sothey recognize Brookhaven as an excellent stopping point whentraveling on the interstate,” said Brookhaven-Lincoln CountyChamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Cliff Brumfield.”Before, travelers would be too far past the exit ramps before theyrealized they were driving by a sizeable town.”

The four 130-foot high-mast lights along Interstate 55 and thedozen 40-foot low-mast lights along the on and off ramps will bringBrookhaven up to speed with other interstate cities. WebsterElectric President and owner Steve Webster said the lights wouldproduce three to five foot-candles of light, basically theequivalent of the light produced in the parking lots of new grocerystores.

Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop said the”electrical welcome mat” would be essential to Brookhaven’sbusiness community and provide much-needed visibility at theformerly dark interchange. He pointed out that what’s good for thecity is good for the county, and vice versa.

“When somebody drives up to my home to visit me at night, I’mgoing to turn on the lights, I’m not going to let them fumblearound in the dark,” Bishop said. “We’re turning on the front porchlight in Brookhaven.”

Brookhaven Mayor Les Bumgarner said the city has more workplanned for Exit 40 to add to the interchange’s appeal. With theinterchange now under Brookhaven’s control, city leaders areworking with Brookhaven Beautiful to begin landscaping projectsthere.

“Now that we have it lit up, it makes it even more important tokeep it clean and looking nice,” Bumgarner said. “This is the firststep of making that intersection be what it can be, an attractiveplace to come in and out of Brookhaven.”