19 widening starts into town
As work got underway Monday four-laning a 4.52-mile stretch of Highway 19 from Tucker into town, local and state officials gathered Tuesday for an official groundbreaking ceremony on the $35.6-million project before a joyful and very pleased crowd.
“What a wonderful day for Neshoba County,” said state Sen. Jenifer Branning. “Like many of y’all, I was born and raised here. Even as a small child I remember conversations about the need for four-lane access to Neshoba County. There are so many people to thank for this day.”
About 100 people gathered off of the highway for the ceremony near the top of Posey Hill at Road 537.
Work on a separate $11.7 million two-lane bridge replacement project at Tucker began last May and is scheduled to be completed by the fall.
Country music legend and Neshoba County native Marty Stuart was on hand.
“I think this speaks to the progress of our community,” he said. “It is getting harder and harder to contain all the good things that are happening here. Having four-lane access to bring people in and out of our town is going to help us bring in more restaurants, more businesses and more progress.”
Stuart’s Congress of Country Music is under way downtown and when completed and fully funded is expected to be a well of inspiration as a music venue surrounded by memorabilia from the likes of Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash.
On hand Tuesday as well were Mississippi Central District Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons and others, including Philadelphia Mayor James A. Young and Board of Supervisors President Kevin Cumberland.
The four-lane project expected to be completed in 2023 will go to Airpark Drive in Philadelphia.
“This is one of the biggest days in the history of Neshoba County,” said Rep. Michael Ted Evans of Preston who represents part of Neshoba County.
“The folks of Philadelphia and Neshoba County have been waiting for at least 40 years for this.”
He wen to to say that the project has been “promised” and is “finally being done.”
Rep. C Scott Bounds echoed the sense of relief.
“This has been a long time coming,” he said. “These local transportation projects have been on the drawing board for a long time. Now the day has come that we are getting to see the fruits of our labor. Not just people here today but the people who have worked on this project over the years.”
The Mississippi Department of Transportation awarded the contract to Philadelphiia-based W.G. Yates & Sons Construction last November with an April 1 start date and an Oct. 2, 2023, completion date.
A final stretch of four-lane from Tucker to House remains unfunded as does the $130 million bypass from Highway 19 to Williamsville that has been on the drawing board for three decades.