M-DOT plans for Hall Street & Hwy 49 worry Wiggins merchants - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

M-DOT plans for Hall Street & Hwy 49 worry Wiggins merchants

WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) -

A well-known intersection in Wiggins is attracting attention again.

M-DOT recently finished a safety study of Highway 49 and Hall Street. But the department's decision to close the highway crossing there, doesn't sit well with the business community.

Several hundred area residents signed a petition calling for the closing of that busy intersection, which was the scene of more than two dozen accidents and two fatalities in recent years. That's what prompted the M-DOT safety study.

But now many merchants in Wiggins worry that closing the crossover will be bad for business. Hall Street and Highway 49 is the gateway to a new business corridor in Wiggins; an economic boom sparked by Walmart's arrival.

But while safety concerns at this busy crossing prompted the M-DOT study, economic development access is also a key issue for many.

"We all bought land on Hall Street joining the highway here to enhance our business through the traffic. If they slow the traffic down, our businesses are not going to prosper like they should," said developer, Wynn Alexander.

Alexander is developing 35 acres along Hall Street. And he's not alone in voicing concern about limiting access.

"That's going to restrict the flow of traffic getting to all these businesses you see right here. There's a big hotel over here and Popeye's and there's just too many to name right now. But if those folks can't get here, they're going to be passing us by," said alderman at large, Joel Miles.

M-DOT district engineer, Kelly Castleberry, told WLOX News the intersection isn't going away, but the plan is to close the crossover between north and southbound Highway 49 at Hall Street.

Merchants like Jeffrey Peters fear that closing the crossover will hurt the customer count.

"This intersection is key to traffic flow for my business down Hall Street. And if you cut that off, then my business is going to, it's going to hurt," he said.

Speed is one of the big concerns when it comes to safety at the busy intersection.  For drivers pulling off of Hall Street, it's easy to misjudge how fast the traffic is coming on Highway 49 going down that hill.

Merchants we talked with acknowledge the safety concerns, but say there are alternatives to closing the crossover.

"An acceleration lane and a deceleration lane. Slow the speed down a little bit. And that would more than take care of it," said Alexander.

M-DOT District Engineer Kelly Castleberry said closing the crossing at Hall Street is just one element of the safety plan for that area. There are also plans to install a new traffic signal at the intersection just south of there at Highway 49 and Magnolia Street.

Meanwhile, merchants will share their concerns with transportation commissioner Tom King, at a meeting next week.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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