Desoto County News

Highway 51 public meeting held at Landers Center

It’s very early in the process but a first public look at plans to widen a portion of U.S. Highway 51 between Green T Road and Church Road to four lanes was presented Tuesday at the Landers Center in Southaven. 

The Mississippi Department of Transportation presented drawings of the plans for the highway’s widening. 

The public meeting was the first step after preliminary planning of the project and much of the early concerns centered on environmental effects from the construction and the roadway once constructed.  

Environmental studies and alternative analysis this summer will be followed by a draft environmental assessment document being drawn up this winter. 

That document will be brought back for a public hearing and comment next spring, which will be followed by a final environmental assessment document.  

Robert Walker of Neel-Schaffer, which was hired by MDOT to do the environmental assessment, said officials are trying to provide affected residents the purpose and need of the project. 

“Also, if a property owner lives along the route, they can see what the impacts could be,” Walker said. “They can ask questions about how they access that property, what it means if they are impacted.”

Walker said residents along the route could also learn about the process of purchasing property if need be.

“It’s really to inform the public and for us to gather information that we might need to make adjustments to,” Walker said.  

Comments were being received by those who attended and they will help determine what changes may need to be made. 

While estimated into the millions of dollars, Walker said it’s too early to put a price tag on the project, adding that funding has yet to be provided.  

One item Walker said early attendees were interested in was the placement of roundabouts at certain intersections, similar to the roundabout currently in use at Starlanding Road and state Highway 301.  

“A lot of people are excited about the roundabouts that are planned from a safety standpoint versus a traffic signal,” said Walker. “I think they’ve seen some of the roundabouts nearby that have been built in, and at least from what I gather, are positive about those even though it impacts on property and access along the way. Plus, just the fact that we’re adding lanes down the road to help move traffic and accommodate the heavy trucks is a positive thing.” 

As facilities such as the Associated Wholesale Grocers near Hernando are situated along Highway 51, more vehicles with more employees and trucks to service them are using the two-lane highway, requiring the need for an expanded highway in that area.   

A 10-minute video with the presentation seen at Tuesday’s public meeting can be viewed at this link: