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After Year of Work, $212M Project to Build Mississippi Bypass Is Ahead of Schedule

Mon February 19, 2024 - Southeast Edition
Biloxi Sun Herald

Shutterstock photo

Last year's hot, dry weather was tough on people and plants, but it put construction of the Mississippi Highway 57 Bypass project, around the town of Vancleave, ahead of schedule.

"The drought helped us a lot," said Anna Ehrgott, a public information officer of the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), in speaking with the Biloxi Sun Herald.

Work on the $212 million project in the southeast corner of the state began during March 2023 and is projected to be complete in 2027.

Crews are paving sections near the Jim Ramsay Road interchange, she said, and 10 of the 13 bridges along the project corridor are under construction.

Interchanges also are being constructed at Gautier-Vancleave Road and other junctions with Jim Ramsay Road, along with an additional interchange that will provide a direct connection to the existing highway and business district near Twin Magnolia Lane.

On Feb. 15, a detour of Jim Ramsay Road opened so crews could start building an overpass to carry the new Miss. 57.

The road work has so far taken down large swaths of trees and tinged portions of the highway red as dump trucks continue to drop off load after load of dirt and clay at various points each day, the Biloxi news source reported.

The contractor, W.G. Yates & Son Construction Co., headquartered in Philadelphia, Miss., has work under way along every section of the 9-mi. route from Interstate 10 north to the Lake O' Pines area, Ehrgott said.

The four-lane highway will not only serve as an evacuation route when tropical storms threaten the area — something that happens every summer and fall in the region — but help cars and trucks avoid central Vancleave, where five schools and the Jackson County School District's administration office are located. Normal traffic along that 1.5-mi stretch gridlocks Miss. 57 twice each day.

MDOT Recently Detailed Roadwork's Progress

Ehrgott provided the Sun Herald with an MDOT progress report Feb. 14 on each section of the road construction effort:

  • On the southern stretch of Miss. 57, from I-10 to Gautier-Vancleave Road, two additional southbound lanes are being built parallel to the existing highway. Once that new section of road is complete, two-way traffic will move to the new surface while the existing roadway is improved.
  • A pair of parallel, north-south bridges are under construction in a wet area that frequently floods during heavy storms. The northbound lanes of Miss. 57 will eventually shift slightly west to cross the new structures.
  • The center section of the project, Ehrgott noted, includes the new bypass from Gautier-Vancleave Road around the western side of the town's business district.
  • Earthwork and drainage culvert installation is currently under way from the Gautier-Vancleave Road interchange to Humphrey Road, along Morningside Drive, and at the Jim Ramsay Road interchange.
  • A new bridge now crosses Humphrey Road, she explained, and more intermittent road closures will be needed to complete the overhead work. Message boards will continue to notify the community when the highway is due to be closed.
  • Connector roads are being built between the existing portion of Miss. 57 and the bypass to provide access to local businesses, and to the bypass for a faster route around congested traffic.
  • North of the Vancleave business district, a direct connection between Poticaw Bayou Road and the new Jim Ramsay Road interchange is being constructed to enable traffic to connect directly with the bypass instead of going through the middle of town.
  • In addition to creating a detour of Jim Ramsay Road, paving has begun in the area of the Jim Ramsay interchange.
  • Finally, the bypass will connect back to the existing Miss 57 near Irwin Lane at Lake O' Pines.
MDOT Reports Few Impacts to Area Traffic

The highway work has been done with minimal delays to traffic, MDOT noted. The speed limit has been lowered where the twin bridges are under construction on the lower section of Miss. 57 as dump trucks turning onto and off the highway have at times slowed traffic.

In addition to the occasional closing of Humphrey Road to complete the bridge work there, and the detour on Jim Ramsay Road, Ehrgott told the Biloxi newspaper that drivers can expect traffic shifts along county roads near the new bypass as the construction progresses.

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