Desoto County News

Driving DeSoto drives home a need to state legislators

Photo: The DeSoto County delegation who spoke with state lawmakers at the State Capitol in Jackson on Thursday, Feb. 9 (Credit: DeSoto County Economic Development Council on Facebook)  

Thursday brought a large delegation of DeSoto County government officials, business people, and concerned residents to the State Capitol in Jackson, not with 100 different messages, but all with one specific message to give to legislators and state officials: addressing road issues in the fastest-growing county of Mississippi needs to be immediately addressed.  

Under the banner of Driving DeSoto, the group made a concerted push to present their case to legislators and state officials about the needs for expanded roads in DeSoto County. Three areas of need in particular are placed as most important: widening I-55 south from Goodman Road in Southaven, widening U.S. Highway 51 and state Highway 305.  

“I-55 is the most important and what we would like to do is get the support of our lawmakers and MDOT to proceed with Phase One of I-55 widening,” said DeSoto County Supervisor Mark Gardner. “Phase One would get it down to Church Road. It’s a huge safety issue but also an economic development issue.”

Two other phases for widening I-55, Gardner explained, would get the interstate widened from Church Road to I-269 and Phase Three would get I-55 widened from I-269 to Commerce Street (in Hernando). In addition, a push is made to reconstruct the Commerce Street interchange in Hernando and also said an additional interchange at Starlanding Road.

The delegation who came to Jackson Thursday provided a cross section of people who spoke with legislators about the county’s road problems.  

Expansion of I-55 south from Southaven to Hernando has long been talked about but with few results to this point. Local officials hope that can change.
(Bob Bakken/

“We had over 100 DeSoto Countians letting the legislators know how important the widening of I-55 is,” said DeSoto County Supervisor Lee Caldwell. “From school teachers to mayors and supervisors, along with the Transportation Commissioner, we were asking for support from legislators for funding.” 

While widening highways won’t happen next week and the process will still take time to accomplish, Driving DeSoto is likely the most concerted effort to date to get the people in the state Legislature to appropriate the funding specifically to the areas of most need in DeSoto County.  

“It was very favorable and I think the thing that really hit home was that this is something that everybody in the county came together in one accord and with one voice asking for the same thing,” Caldwell said. “Everyone came together to say that our most immediate need in DeSoto County at this point is the widening of I-55.”

Gardner said the need is very apparent. It’s now just a matter of getting the funding earmarked specifically to the project.     

“Almost daily, I get a text from the Sheriff’s Department saying that I-55 is shut down due to an accident and it’s all from where it bottlenecks at Goodman Road down to four lanes,” Gardner said.  

Part of Thursday’s presentation to legislators was to provide statistics on traffic counts and other information regarding I-55 in DeSoto County. Caldwell said the lawmakers were also made aware of the more than 4,000 who have signed the online petition on the website,

Caldwell said the push didn’t end Thursday, adding it will continue until dollars are appropriated and roadways are widened.  

“We’ll be following up to answer any questions that they may have of us, but we’ve given them all of our statistics, like how many times they’ve had to close the interstate down and those kinds of things,” Caldwell said.  

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