Talk Back 3: I-55 South Commentary - - Jackson, MS

Byram 03/19/08

Talk Back 3: I-55 South Commentary

I greatly appreciated your commentary regarding the "antiquated" I-55 corridor south of I-20 and on to Byram and Terry.  I have lived in Byram since 1992 and during that time I have seen minimal work performed on that stretch of roadway.  Over those years I have seen beautiful brick interchanges being built in Madison and I witnessed the massive and hugely expensive overpass built over Eastover, a little residential road.  More to the point, while interstate highway reconstruction costing in the hundreds of millions of dollars is almost non-stop in Rankin, Madison, and Northern Hinds Counties, I have seen only one moderately significant effort on the southern stretch of interstate within the last 15 years - and that effort was the long overdue resurfacing and lighting project that was performed a number of years ago.  But even while that project was ongoing I could not help but to think that they should NOT be repaving this section of road - instead they should be 6-laning the highway and reengineering and rebuilding the service roads.  In my opinion, that project was just an example of MDOT tossing a rare bone down south in an effort to placate the southern Hinds County residents for another 15 years. 

As I recall, your commentary quoted MDOT as saying there is not enough growth south of I-20 to warrant spending highway dollars there.  I find that argument laughable.  Is MDOT unaware of the booming Byram area, Terry, and other southern Hinds County neighborhoods?  Do they think that people living in those areas ferry up and down the Pearl River to get in and out of Jackson?  Every morning and afternoon I hear Chopper Bob mention the "usual" slowdowns on I-55 from I-20 to the Byram interchange.  I honestly believe that this kind of congestion would not be tolerated in a more affluent area. 

As for the Byram interchange, that is the primary reason I am writing.  In fact, what actually prompted this correspondence was not so much your commentary on I-55 South, but more so due to an article in today's Clarion Ledger.  That paper cited one of the reasons for the rebuilding of the Gluckstadt interchange was because traffic "sometimes backs up onto the interstate".  Now, if you would like to see an example of traffic backing up onto the interstate, then I would like to invite you (and possibly the "3-On Your Side" crew) to take look at the Byram interchange at around 5:00 - 5:30 in the evening.  The exit ramp is much too short and it contains only a single right turn lane into Byram.  This ramp simply is not up to handling the evening Byram traffic, and that traffic regularly backs up onto the I-55 shoulder, sometimes for up for 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile.  It is an exceedingly dangerous situation as confused drivers often pull onto the shoulder too soon or too late, and often I have seen impatient drivers pull out of the shoulder from a standstill and back into the speeding interstate traffic.  I firmly believe there is serious injury or possibly death waiting to happen at the Byram interchange. 

I am certainly not an engineer but I can clearly that the solution would be to lengthen the off-ramp and to provide dual westbound turn lanes into Byram.  On two occasions within the past several years MDOT has come out and "widened" the off-ramp.  Both times I thought they were attempting to remedy the afternoon congestion by constructing dual right turn lanes into Byram, yet after each widening project they inexplicably re-stripped the off-ramp with a single right turn lane.

As for "traffic backing up on the interstate"?  When it happens in Madison or Rankin County MDOT is all over it.  When it happens south of I-20 MDOT is nowhere to be found.

Thank you sir for the work you do.

Timothy Ryan

West Lake Dockery Dr.

Byram, MS


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