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Highway 11 widening to begin in August

Current Southern Highway Commissioner Tom King was in Picayune last Wednesday to officially announce the $25 million Highway 11 multi-phase widening project in Picayune. The project will be done in two phases.

According to King’s comments, Phase I construction will begin in less than 30 days and will be for the widening to a four lane roadway with a raised median from Lakeshore Drive at Hide-A-way Lake to Cayten Street. Phase II will from Cayten Street to the south side of the bridge at Boley Creek (Hobolochitto) and will include a new bridge to built to the east side of the existing bridge. The new bridge will have a barrier wall for a pedestrian walkway and the bridge will have lights.

Tom King (right) talking with Handy Cleaner's Jerry and Gloria Glidewell

Commissioner King, in responding to questions from the small audience, said the new highway will have curbs and have concrete inlets for drainage, but will not have sidewalks.

When asked about drawings for the project, King said they were available in the MDOT offices in Hattiesburg and Jackson. In another response, King said the project will take approximately three years to complete. Phase Two of the project will be let out for bids in the next eight to ten months from now and that project phase “will take a little while”.

King said the raised median for the new highway will be either four or five feet.

State Senator Angela Hill asked King about the high retaining wall of the new highway and the impact it will make on a current doctor’s office and other businesses. Hill asked King how businesses that will no longer be visible from the highway can be compensated properly?

State Senator Angela Hill makes a point with Highway Commissioner Tom King

King responded, “There’s nothing in the law. We hate for businesses to hurt and we regret that progress sometimes hurts businesses. We’re not to hurt businesses, our mission is to help businesses.”

King added, “You don’t plan for today, you’ve got to plan for tomorrow as for future traffic and that’s what it’s all about. Safety is main priority and we are obeying the law and doing everything the law tells us to do.”

King said that any business owner that was bought out can be paid 10 percent above the appraisal value based on the laws in place. He said that if the owner disagrees with the value, they can have their own appraisal done.

State Representative Stacey Wilkes was at the press conference and shared this.

“I wasn’t notified until 9:00 pm (the night before the press conference) from someone other than the commissioner’s office and I just asked him to please notify me in the future when he is going to hold a press conference in my district in front of my constituents. I’ve had many face to face meetings on this project and have a good relationship with his office. They assured me they would going forward.

Senator Hill said she hopes businesses’ concerns and the impacts this will have to their business will be heard.

“I hope that MDOT and the commissioner will do the best possible within the law. What I’ve learned through this process is that most business owners that are bought out through the process of imminent domain do not receive enough money to relocate and rebuild and that’s a problem. I think that’s why we see some of these businesses in litigation and I think we need to look at this to see if there’s anything we can do statutorily to make this less painful in the future.”


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