Skip to content
A town’s dilemma

A town’s dilemma

By: Magnolia Tribune - April 21, 2008

Highway plan stirs ire

Officials at MDOT, including environmental engineer Claiborne Barnwell, have heard these complaints for a long time now.

“We’ve met with numerous people on several occasions,” Barnwell says, “and the only thing anybody remotely agreed on was getting the truck traffic off Church Street. But nobody ever came up with a way to do it.”

In a public meeting in December 1999, MDOT proposed a bypass east of town – the alternative now favored by many Port Gibson residents.

“We were booed out of the room,” Barnwell says.

A few years later, Port Gibson’s Board of Aldermen and Claiborne County supervisors told MDOT they opposed the bypass, he says. Since then, Port Gibson has elected a new mayor, Fred Reeves. He wants the bypass.

“Even Grant didn’t want to tamper with the historic district,” he says, “and that was 1863.”

“Beyond that, constructing a bypass would provide jobs for local people for years. Right now, we don’t have any work here.”

A bypass would take longer to build and cost more money, Barnwell says. The agency could only provide rough cost estimates. Its plan: at least $30 million to $35 million. The bypass: at least twice that much. Butch Brown, MDOT’s executive director, favors the cheaper plan. He couldn’t be reached for comment. Dick Hall, one of three state highway commissioners who must approve a plan, is the only one opposing MDOT’s.

“It was really a dumb, dumb decision,” he says. “Church Street is not an option. “It can be stopped. I’m hopeful I can explain the situation to the other commissioners and we can do that. Sometimes, bureaucrats just have to be overruled.”

Barnwell disagrees. “We have a responsibility to the local people but also to the person who is going from Vicksburg to Natchez and isn’t really interested in Port Gibson,” Barnwell says.

Clarion Ledger

About the Author(s)
author profile image

Magnolia Tribune

This article was produced by Magnolia Tribune staff.
Previous Story