BRANDON, Miss. (WJTV) – Leaders with the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRVWSD) said they are taking steps to move Bob Anthony Parkway, which is currently near the Ross Barnett Reservoir. Many consider the Reservoir as a shortcut from Rankin County to Madison County and vice versa.
There are no issues with the roadway physically, but leaders said the road is near frequent construction and recreational activities, which could pose as a safety concern for drivers and citizens nearby. As more drivers have started to use the road, leaders said traffic does become jammed at a certain point in the day.
“As you build more roads, more people will come. Right now, the average traffic on the dam each day is 30,000 vehicles, even with the fact that we restricted the load limit of vehicles crossing the dam to just one ton. I believe Highway 49, they just finished expanding, I believe carries 50,000 vehicles a day. So, this is a comparable traffic volume out here crossing the dam. Of course, the dam was really never intended to be a highway. It was supposed to hold the water in the lake and to let that water be there for water supply and recreation,” explained Mark Beyea, PRVWSD Chief Engineer.
The project consists of moving both roadways off the dam and relocating them downstream in the wooded areas below.
According to Beyea, vehicles leaving the road and going through guard rails into the lake is also another concern.
“There are a lot of things that go on in terms of maintaining a structure like the Barnett Reservoir Dam. We have people out there on a daily basis cutting grass and checking instrumentation on the dam, and we have operators who work on the dam 24/7, so there’s always people out there, and they’re out there in close proximity to that 30,000 traffic volume that is crossing. People moving around in that close proximity to that traffic is a safety hazard,” said Beyea.
Moving the existing roadways on the dam will also create the an opportunity for the roads to be turned into recreational facilities. Currently, each roadway has a bicycle lane adjacent to it. Once the road is moved, cyclists won’t have to worry about drivers speeding past them.
All proposed relocations for the roadway are parallel to the south from 150 to 400 feet from the dam in the area.
“The dam is a three-mile long stretch of road, and people see that and tend to treat it like a drag stip. Racing on that strip can lead to some horrible wrecks and injuries. Anything that can be done to make it safer. You’ll never stop people from doing things they shouldn’t do, but if you can make it where they’re less likely to get hurt when they do something silly, that’s a good thing,” said Beyea.
The project is currently in the environmental assessment phase. The project is being planned and designed using federal grant money.
The anticipating cost for the project is estimated at $150 million, depending on how prices change between now and when the project starts in 2025.