Massive box culverts are ready to be placed under the railroad track as part of the $22 million Lake Harbour Drive extension project.
Massive box culverts are ready to be placed under the railroad track as part of the $22 million Lake Harbour Drive extension project.
RIDGELAND — The prefabricated box culverts at the railroad, a central piece to the ongoing $22 million Lake Harbour extension, should be installed within a month, Mayor Gene F. McGee said.

“They have a contract date to be finished by. I don’t have that in front of me, but I believe it should be finished in less than a month,” McGee said Wednesday. 

“They are moving equipment in place and getting ready right now.”

McGee said that the next step is for the construction company to conduct a “safety meeting” with the railroad. This is a big part of the project and in past meetings, officials have joked about staking out the project location until it is completed.

Last September it was announced that the culvert had come in over budget by about $1.2 million. The city even had to tweak and rebid the project after receiving no bids in the first round of bidding early last May. 

The Mayor and Board of Aldermen awarded the bid to Hemphill Construction for $4,987,485 to install the box culvert under the railroad.

A report filed at the time by Chad Edwards with Waggoner Engineering, which oversees the whole Lake Harbour Extension project, noted that the low bid was 31 percent higher than their original estimate of $3,792,284.

However, he felt that the increase in price was justified due to the risk associated with the project.

“Due to time constraints placed on the contractor, third party involvement, unique nature of the work, and overall complexity of the construction effort we recommend that award of the contract be made to Hemphill Construction Company,” Edwards wrote at the time.

Since September, the city has been awaiting action by the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which is paying for 80 percent of the project through federal funds, concurrence.

This project and others like are expected to increase mobility and relieve congestion on heavily-traveled roads, most notably Jackson Street, which city officials hope to transform into a traditional town center.

“We are excited about the new dimension this will add to our traffic patterns citywide. The goal is to relieve pressure on Jackson Street so that we can develop a town center there. This is one of several projects that will help us meet that goal,” McGee said. ‘This is something we are constantly working towards.”

The extension of Lake Harbour Drive will permit motorists to travel from U.S. 51, the current endpoint of Lake Harbour Drive, across the Illinois Central Railroad and over I-55 to the Highland Colony Parkway.

McGee said that Eutaw Construction has already begun dirt work on the other side of the interstate near The Church of the Highlands in anticipation of bridging the two sides of the city together.

The large and complex project includes several steps including an at-grade railroad crossing, culvert replacement, multiple utility relocations, connection to a state highway, and an interstate bridge.