Palmetto Road/Trace

crossing almost complete

By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

Work is essentially complete on a new intersection between Palmetto Road and the Natchez Trace Parkway in Lee County with contractors awaiting warmer and drier weather to complete the project.

Stennis Young, chief of maintenance for the 445-mile federal parkway, said it appears the project will come in on or ahead of its scheduled March completion date.

"We're on schedule," Young said Friday. "But the weather has delayed us because of the cold and the rain."

Work began on the $3 million project in November of 1999. It was designed to replace the old, at-grade crossing of Palmetto Road and the Natchez Trace with a bridge to carry the parkway over Palmetto Road. Access ramps will allow egress to the Trace from Palmetto Road.

"We had hoped to be finished before now," Young said of the work. "But the winter held us up. All we lack is the final surface and striping and installing signs and the final grading to pull in the shoulders and seed the shoulders. The bridge structure itself is actually complete."

Before the final paving can be completed, however, the contractor needs another break in the wintry weather.

"It's just a matter of getting some good weather, a couple of 50 plus (temperature) days and dry," Young said. "We could have it done in a couple of weeks, really."

The new intersection was deemed necessary because of the large number of accidents that have occurred at the crossing.

When work began on the bridge project in 1999, there had been 162 accidents with 132 injuries and seven fatalities at the site since 1963.

The statistics made it the most dangerous intersection along the entire Natchez-to-Nashville length of the Trace. Officials blamed the angle of the intersection as well as the amount of traffic passing through the crossing for the problems.

More than 2,100 vehicles pass through the intersection each day, according to the Department of Transportation.

Since the construction project has been under way, motorists have had to take a five-mile detour around a three-mile portion of the Trace on County Roads 41, 684,261 and 900.

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