After several weeks of rain delay, the work of widening Coulter Drive to three lanes has finally started. It is hoped that creating a third lane in the middle of Coulter Drive will give at least some relief to the traffic jams that regularly plague motorists in that area.
Workers and equipment have been moving dirt during recent days and construction supplies such as culvert components have arrived on site
The contract requires that the work of adding a third lane, curbs and gutters to the street to be completed by December. Coulter runs south to north four-tenths (.41) of a mile from Highway 30 West to Denton Road on the west side of New Albany.
The intersection of Coulter Drive with Highway 30 has been part of persistent traffic jam that has continued to grow over the years. The middle of the Highway 30/Coulter intersection is only 260 feet from the access ramps to Interstate 22 (I-22). There are four traffic signals on Highway 30 within 1,200 feet of the complex intersection, and motorists often wait through multiple light changes to get through the area.
The area has been the center of growing New Albany commercial development, both retail and medical services, for a quarter century The opening last year of a new Cracker Barrel Restaurant accessed by Coulter Drive has increased traffic and brought increased attention to a congestion problem that has been growing for a long time.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) has acknowledged that the intersection is a serious traffic problem, but says the state legislature has failed to provide sufficient funding to do the work to solve the Coulter Drive problem. MDOT has not said what its engineers believe the solution would be, but it is certain to be an expensive one, given the value of real estate near the I-22/Highway 30 intersection.
At a board meeting on Tuesday, May 15. the New Albany Board of Aldermen selected the Michael Pittman Construction Company of Corinth, MS, to do the work. Pittman’s low bid of $774,162.50 contrasted with the highest bid, $1,043,000, from Paul Smithey Construction Company of Union County.
The work will be paid for with $401,397 from the New Albany street improvement budget, and a grant of $390,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).
The bulk of ARC funding comes from the federal government. President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 federal budget eliminates all funding for ARC, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has assured his constituents that ARC funding will not be cut.