Madison County Journal

Mayor McGee goes to Washington for I-55 frontage road funding

By Duncan Dent

Securing funding for a proposed frontage road along I-55 on the southwest edge town was one of the aims Mayor Gene F. McGee had on a recent trip to Washington D.C.

McGee was in the nation’s capital from Sept. 23 to Sept. 25, where he met with Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith as well as Rep. Michael Guest, and a staff member from Rep. Bennie Thompson’s office.

McGee attended these meetings with a representative from Tougaloo College, which has been a vocal supporter of the frontage road project. McGee added that MCEDA has offered its support for the project.

“The meetings went well,” McGee reported. “I think they are all on board.”

He also said that they could apply for federal funding for parts of the design and preparation phase of the proposed roadway.

“That's great,” Ward 1 Alderman Ken Heard said.

The trip was approved on the consent agenda during the Sept. 17 meeting along with a following trip to Starkville that weekend for the Mississippi Municipal League Executive Board meeting.

Specifically, McGee was approved to travel to Washington to discuss the I-220 interchange.

In May, aldermen approved changes to the Generalized Land Use and Transportation Plan that will allow them to secure funding for potential new roadways in the area including the proposed I-55 frontage road. The changes also united some zoning on that side of town.

A map presented at the meeting by Community Development Director Alan Hart showed a proposed frontage road along I-55 and various arterial additions to improve mobility on that side of town.

“I have talked to a lot of business owners in the area, including the Madison County School District, and they are all on board with improved mobility in the area,” Hart said. “I think these proposed improvements will increase traffic flow in the area, particularly after the Lake Harbour Drive extension is finished.”

He added they expected positive effects, such as a boost in stagnating rent rates and diverting traffic of large trucks off of Highland Colony Parkway.

He said that the proposed changes to the comprehensive plan would open up their options when it came time to apply for grants.

Vice President of Facilities and Real Property Management at Tougaloo College Kelle Menogan, who was present for the meeting in May, said at the time that the college looked forward to the changes.

“I have talked to the board and we offer our full support to the city,” Menogan said.

Hart mentioned then that he had been in discussion with Menogan and Tougaloo about the area surrounding the college that is in the city for at least the past six or eight years.