DeSoto County Expected to Reap Benefits of Interstate 69

Fri October 13, 2006 - Southeast Edition
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HERNANDO, Miss. (AP) A section of Interstate 69, a future Mexico-to-Canada highway, was dedicated Oct. 3 in rural western DeSoto County.

The $137-million Mississippi section, in the works since the late 1990s, is a limited-access highway, four lanes of concrete divided by a grass median. It connects Interstate 55 north of Hernando with U.S. 61 north and the casinos of Tunica. The highway is to enter Arkansas from Mississippi and run through south Arkansas.

State and local officials were to be on hand for the opening. Classic cars from the Studebaker Club of Tunica will take the first drive.

The project referred to locally as I-69 is actually a combination of two state highways.

New Mississippi 304 runs from I-55 approximately 15 mi. west to U.S. 61. I-69 runs west along Mississippi 304 for 12.5 mi. before taking a southwestern turn for 5 mi. along Mississippi 713 and stopping at old Mississippi 304 in Tunica’s Banks community.

Mississippi Department of Transportation executive director Butch Brown said the road is opening at least three years earlier than it would have because Tunica County officials jump-started the project. Tunica supervisors borrowed $53.7 million for the surfacing project that began in spring 2005. The state will repay Tunica’s debt.

Tunica wanted the road to boost gambling and tourism.

“That’s going to be the entryway and that’s going to be the focal point around which all of North Mississippi develops,” DeSoto County Planning Director Jim McDougal said. “Obviously, all types of activities are being thought about for that corridor: residential, commercial, office and industrial.”

DeSoto County is preparing to hire a consultant to study major road corridors, particularly I-69 and future Interstate 269. Officials want a land use and zoning plan for dealing with development proposals.

I-269 is proposed to run from I-55 east and north to Tennessee 385 east of Collierville. MDOT officials expect parts of I-269 to be under construction within three years.

DeSoto Supervisor Bill Russell said I-69 will “open up that whole middle part of the county to development. We’ve already had people inquiring about hotels and motels.”