September 18, 2020

When will Mississippi finally do something about Highway 49?

(Above: A screen grab of Highway 49 via MDOT’s live traffic video feed.)

It used to be a joke, but it’s not funny any more.

I drove down to the Mississippi Coast this past weekend and as most of us know, the quickest way to get to the Coast from here is to drive to Jackson and head south on Highway 49. And, as most of us know who have driven that route, you must go through the Richland and Flowood area and pray your vehicle makes it through what I consider the most hazardous and embarrassing major roadway in the state of Mississippi.

And it has been like that for decades.

When I was a kid, my family would visit relatives in the Mississippi Delta and have to drive that area of Highway 49. My brothers and I enjoyed the bouncing effect as my Dad’s truck maneuvered its way down the road and we were lifted up off the seat. I could hear my Dad mumble under his breath, not sure what he was saying. I have a pretty good idea now, though.

The bouncing down the roadway remains, but now there are missing chunks of road that can easily break a rim if you drive faster than 40 mph. I’ve actually seen a tractor-trailer rig come loose after breaking free on a stretch of Highway 49 near Florence due to hitting a pot hole.

I can only imagine what visitors who come to our state and travel that section of Highway 49 think. I’ve had more than one person from out of state ask me why that area of roadway that links so many parts of Mississippi has not been fixed. I wish I had an answer.

I also wonder what merchants and residents in that area who have to work and drive that roadway every day think. I can’t imagine dealing with driving down that area of Highway 49 on an every day basis.

What really baffles me is that it seems that particular area south of Jackson continues to grow and prosper despite the conditions of the major throroughfare that runs north and south. I can only imagine how prosperous Flowood, Richland and Florence would be if the roadway matched that prosperity as a legitimate highway.

On this most recent venture through that area, I noticed work is being done in the medians. I’m not exactly sure why the medians are being worked on when the road conditions are so deplorable.

The state legislature is expected to pass measures dealing with transportation and I for one hope that area of Highway 49 is at the top of the list for finally being repaired properly.

It’s a joke that no one is laughing at any more.

Rob Sigler is editor of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at rob.sigler@vicksburgpost.com.