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News for members of Northcentral Electric Power Association

Drivers can do more to make 4 Mississippi roadways safer

9 Outdoors Today: Back to Africa

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with fresh 14 Cooking Gulf Coast seafood

MHP Capt. John Poulos


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Today in Mississippi

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June 2018

MDOT I-269 project brings economic growth to Northcentral service area For more information By Elissa Fulton In most major metropolitan cities, the highways and interstate systems are a vast economic development driver. In the early 1990s, federal agencies approached Mississippi Congressmen about a highway project that would eventually connect Canada to Mexico with over 1,600 miles of interstate through North America. The concept of the project would have I-69 go directly through Memphis, Tenn., north Mississippi and down through the Mississippi Delta—an economic development game changer for the state. In order to connect the existing interstates and highways, Mississippi and Tennessee would have to work together to build a loop for the Memphis Metropolitan area, known today as the I-269 loop. Currently, the loop is 30 miles long and begins at MS 305 in Lewisburg, Miss., travels eastward where it connects with I-22/US 78, and continues to the north where it joins I-40 to I-69 and U.S. 51 at Millington, Tenn. The Mississippi portion of the loop is a 25 miles stretch to the state line with 13 fully controlled access ramps. Shortly after former Repsentative Tommy Woods was elected to office in 1988, he was selected to serve on the transportation committee in the House of Representatives, which he served for 25 years until retiring in 2013. As a committee member, he was privy to information related to the development for the proposed beltway project. Working in the best interests of

I-269 at the I-22 interchange

north Mississippi citizens, Woods and DeSoto County former Sen. Bill Hawks decided it was their responsibility to influence how the project would go. One afternoon, the two got in Woods’ old pickup truck and rode the two counties, deciding on a path that would do the least damage to the residents of both counties.

Commissioner Mike Tagert Photo courtesy of MDOT

Former Rep. Tommy Woods

“After we mapped out an area, the federal boys came back with a route that would go through the new Center Hill High School. They had just built that school and it was going to go straight through all those big houses in the area, and it just wasn’t going to work,” said Woods. “So we went to work trying to change that. We talked to the people and had meetings of the population. After the people voiced their opinions, we put enough pressure on them that they finally picked our route.”

The initial route for the loop proposed by the government would have cut out Marshall County all together, but Woods, Hawks and the citizens stirred up enough momentum to change the entire course. It was a huge feat for Marshall County. The highway project finally broke ground in 2011. In 2015, a joint ribboncutting ceremony with Tennessee celebrated the first section of the Mississippi portion of the route being opened. This route also included work on the north side of the state line in Tennessee and was a very closely coordiKevin Doddridge nated joint effort between Northcentral CEO/general manager the two states. According to Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) Northern District Commissioner Mike Tagert, the project is two-thirds of the way complete, with the final segment slated to open in the fall of 2018. “The final segment is a 9-mile stretch from 305 to the connection at I-55. We are looking for an opening of that final segment in October 2018,” said Commissioner Tagert. “This is the largest construction project in the state of Mississippi, certainly this year, and has been for several years. It is very uncommon that


June 2018

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Today in Mississippi

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on Today in Mississippi, contact Michael Bellipanni at 800-325-8925. we are able to build new sections of federal interstate. This has really been a crown jewel for the Department of Transportation. We all have a great appreciation for this project, as it’s rare and uncommon that we get to work on one of this scope and this scale.” With a project of this size, it has certainly not been without its challenges. When construction reached the Coldwater River basin, the engineers and contractors had to follow strict Environmental Protection Agency

The project is about moving freight and moving big trucks in a more efficient, cost-effective and safer way. (EPA) guidelines when building the Coldwater River bridge, and special construction techniques were adopted. “We worked very closely with our federal partners, and obviously we were all concerned with the environmental sensitivity of the area,” said Commissioner Tagert. “We agreed with our partners with the Corps of Engineers and with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration that we would use a method where we would build basically from the top down. We built laterally as opposed to vertically and it was certainly need-

ed for the sensitivity of that area.” Local economic development possibilities are unlimited with this interstate connection project, and Northcentral Electric is already seeing those opportunities come to fruition. With the convergence of four major interstates that are all interconnected near the Memphis International Airport and an intermodal yard located north of the state line, north Mississippi residents are seeing major corporations and manufacturing plants moving to the area. Along with those companies are job opportunities. “Seeing is believing. All you have to do is drive the stretch of highway and see all the undeveloped green areas and envision the impact that it will have,” said Kevin Doddridge, Northcentral CEO/general manager. “As you continue driving you will realize how close this area will be to Millington, Tenn., and Helena, Ark. Couple that potential workforce with the dynamic and diverse development opportunity, and you understand why this area is on the radar of every client looking to build, relocate or expand. It’s an incredible opportunity and we at Northcentral are excited to be a part of it.”

Commissioner Tagert explained how the project is about moving freight and moving big trucks in a more efficient, cost-effective and safer way. “When you place bigger trucks on a bigger road, everyone is safer,” said Commissioner Tagert. “DeSoto and Marshall counties and the local leadership have done a fantastic job of embracing the 269 corridor and trying to plan and get ahead of that kind of growth and opportunity, and to maximize it. These counties are a major revenue source, not just for north Mississippi but the entire state. It is the fastest growing region of our state and all of Mississippi is certainly going to benefit.” Although there is no current federal or state funding for the future I-69 project, it has officially been established that it will turn at Tunica and go south through the Mississippi Delta, creating even more economic potential for the state. Aerial photo courtesy of MDOT

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Today in Mississippi June 2018 Northcentral  

Today in Mississippi June 2018 Northcentral

Today in Mississippi June 2018 Northcentral  

Today in Mississippi June 2018 Northcentral