MDOT gets $4.8M to improve hurricane evacuation routes on I-55, I-59

Published 8:00 am Monday, May 6, 2024

The Mississippi Department of Transportation recently received a $4.8 million grant from the U.S. DOT PROTECT Discretionary Grant Program. One of 80 funded projects nationwide, the funds will be used to improve contraflow operations on Interstate 55 and I-59, two major hurricane evacuation routes between Mississippi and Louisiana. 

“When a hurricane threatens, having the ability to quickly move people out of harm’s way is of the utmost importance,” said Charles Busby, Mississippi Transportation Commissioner, Southern District. “As a coastal resident, I’m particularly grateful for this funding and the positive impact it will have on south Mississippi as well as our neighbors in Louisiana.”

Utilized only in the event of a powerful hurricane, contraflow turns all four lanes of I-59 and I-55 traffic northbound from Louisiana through just south of Brookhaven and Hattiesburg to aid in the evacuation of Southeast Louisiana and Coastal Mississippi residents.

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“Contraflow in Mississippi is rare, but when we need to implement it, we must act rapidly and with a high level of efficiency,” said Brad White, MDOT Executive Director. “We thank our federal partners for grant funding that will allow us to improve contraflow operations, enabling greater proficiency when we need it most.”

The grant will help fund the extension of contraflow routes and installation of new signage, gates at exit ramps and mile markers for improved traffic flow along the southern segments of I-55 and I-59 in the state. The project is currently in the design phase, and construction is expected to begin in 2025. The project will improve safety, efficiency and resiliency within two critical segments of hurricane evacuation infrastructure.

For FY2022 and 2023, the PROTECT Discretionary Grant Program awarded $829.6 million in grant funding to 80 recipients to fund projects that address the climate crisis by improving the resilience of the surface transportation system. The awards are located across 37 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands and include seven Tribal projects.