By Carson McKinney
Dozens of area citizens provided their thoughts on a proposed roundabout Monday on what’s been called Lafayette County’s “most dangerous intersection.”
The Mississippi Department of Transportation held the meeting Monday evening at the Oxford Conference Center to present plans to construct a high-speed roundabout at the Highway 7/9 split.
Those attending were allowed to review maps and renderings and provide comments and feedback on the plans.
According to MDOT spokesman Jace Ponder, the project is expected to be advertised for bids in April with construction beginning this summer and completion by the end of the year.
In attendance at the meeting was Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill, who supports the roundabout idea as well as potential plans to widen the stretch of Highway 7 in Oxford to benefit commuters.
“I think anyone who lives in Oxford knows we are a fan of the roundabout,” Tannehill said. “They move traffic as efficiently and effectively as any other kind of traffic mechanism, even more so than a red light. We’ve found them to be very successful in Oxford, and I don’t have any reason to think they wouldn’t be at that intersection.”
The Highway 7/9 split roundabout project is using money from the Federal Highway Administration which comes in four big “pots” of money, one of which is the Highway Safety Improvement Plan, used only for things with safety issues like severity and number of accidents. Although MDOT has purchased the right-of-way and moved some utilities, Executive Director Melinda McGrath says Highway 7’s future expansion money is currently going to repair bridges and repave roads.
“Our highway system is old, just like our bridges, so we don’t have money at this time to maintain what we have as well as expand roads,” McGrath said. “We agree Highway 7 needs to be four-laned sooner than later, but our problem is coming up with the extra $86 million needed to do that.”
Lt. Jeff Wells from the Lafayette County Fire Department is stationed by and lives near the 7/9 split. Wells has reservations regarding the flow of county roads 420 and 369 into the roundabout but believes it can be done correctly.
“The 7/9 split intersection is extremely bad,” Wells said. “There have been some major wrecks there. There have been three fatalities in the past nine years, and I know of two alone in the past year from the split to town. I think more emphasis needs to be put on addressing the traffic flow on that section of the highway; this is more or less going to alleviate folks sitting in line in the morning trying to get to work.”