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We can benefit from new interstate

With talk of a new interstate being a possibility for Mississippi, area residents can anticipate a boost to the local economy. Just not in the next few years.

Originally proposed in 2005 to extend from Natchez eastward to Georgia or South Carolina, the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway — also known as Interstate 14 — has begun in west Texas. In 2015, Texas received a congressional designation for the interstate mostly consisting of U.S. 190, which cuts through the center of state. This April, the first section of I-14 was officially unveiled: a 25-mile stretch of U.S. 190.

Garrick Combs, executive director of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and the Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation, said he is “pretty confident an interstate will be built” if the U.S. Congress designates the route.

If the route becomes a reality, it will likely convert part of Hwy. 84 into interstate highway. That means Brookhaven and Lincoln County would have an additional interstate.

Texas is the only state that has designated roads for this project, so Louisiana and Mississippi need to get on board next. A congressional briefing is anticipated to take place the week of Jan. 22, during which delegates from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas will meet to garner support for the interstate.

Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, who serves on the state Highways and Transportation committee, believes another interstate in the area will definitely be a positive thing.

“Having another interstate gives the potential for more commercial, industrial and distribution center growth in Lincoln County,” said Doty. “I believe we would see the same type of businesses that are along I-55 replicated on and east/west route. Many national chains will only locate at an interstate exit and additional exits would provide a boost to the Lincoln County economy.”

Although getting the I-14 designation is the first step, the process looks to be a long one. Combs said it took 12 years from the time Hwy. 78 was designated as I-22 for the passage to be completed for motorists. That’s plenty of time to recruit new businesses to the area.

“It’s going to dramatically increase traffic counts throughout the area, spur commercial and retail development around Hwy. 51 and 84,” he said. “It should increase our favorability to companies who need to move lots of goods.”

More commercial and retail development means more business for construction crews and more employment opportunities for locals. It also means more opportunities for shopping, lodging and dining out.

We certainly hope that the “Future 14” project will come to fruition and serve as a step in the right direction for the people and businesses of Lincoln County.