Phase II of western beltway proposed

Phase II proposal for western beltway. Source: WDAM.
Phase II proposal for western beltway. Source: WDAM.
Published: Feb. 6, 2018 at 3:08 AM CST|Updated: Jun. 5, 2018 at 11:26 AM CDT
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FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - A proposal could alleviate traffic for drivers around the Hub City, but funding could keep it from becoming a reality for a while.

The Forrest County Board of Supervisors and Hattiesburg City Council received an update on what could be phase II for the western beltway Monday.

Phase II of the multimillion dollar project would connect the beltway from Peps Point Road on U.S. 49 to Interstate 59 and the Evelyn Gandy Parkway.  The Metropolitan Planning Organization for Hattiesburg-Petal-Forrest-Lamar first introduced the idea of the western beltway, connecting Highway 49 and West Highway 98 in phase I, in 2012. 

"We'd love to see the day there's a beltway around Hattiesburg, I think it's needed to help traffic congestion," said Forrest County Board of Supervisors President David Hogan.

Shows, Dearman and Waits, Inc. presented the feasibility study for phase II to county and city leaders.  The study found the beltway could be built and would work well for the area, greatly improving traffic. Project manager Lou Thomas said all options would see a return benefit, but the most feasible would return about a $7.60 benefit for every dollar spent on construction.

Hogan said two lanes in phase II would cost $20-million and four lanes would cost $40-million.

"There's a lot of talk about infrastructure upgrades in Washington, D.C. and at the state capitol, so we'll see," said Hogan.  "Hopefully, one day we'll get some significant infrastructure money from the federal government and we'll have projects shovel ready to compete for those dollars."

City leaders were skeptical of the idea, with federal or state funding being used towards the large project instead of the opportunity to be used in Hattiesburg.

"I am not crazy about the idea," said council member Deborah Delgado.  "It seems to me that our participation as a city would result in benefits for surrounding communities and cities, and not so much for the city of Hattiesburg. It would take away resources that we need."

"As we explore opportunities to improve traffic flow in and around Hattiesburg, we have to take every step possible to make sure we are protecting interest in our city," said council member Jeffrey George.

Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker said he'd like to see state or federal funding being used for projects that are needed in the Hub City. 

"We're always willing to hear opportunities and hear plans for projects," Barker said. "However, there are finite resources and we are focused on making sure we can take care of the problems inside of Hattiesburg which are many when it comes to infrastructure."

There is going to be a public hearing on the proposal for phase II of the western beltway.  We will update you when those details are made available.