Economic potential seen with railroad underpass
A long-awaited $8 million project to extend County Line Road west to the Tougaloo College area opened to traffic Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Ridgeland Mayor Gene F. McGee hopes the roadway under the railroad will open up the area to economic development.
"I think the road extension is great," he said. "I hope it will help and be beneficial to economic development over there."
Ridgeland Alderman-at-Large D.I. Smith said he is excited to see the completion and sees the potential to revolutionize the area economically.
“This is one of the largest infrastructure projects in Mississippi, and along with its economic potential, it’s also a great opportunity for Tougaloo College,” Smith said. “I hope the area around it continues to improve and that entrepreneurs can come in and develop the area. I’m excited to see the project finally come to completion and what the future holds for all of the West County Line Road area.”
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said he is proud the project is completed.
“I must admit that this has been one of the most important projects I’ve wanted to see to its completion,” Lumumba said during Monday’s ceremony. “This project started back in 1998, and that was when we had the vision to open up Tougaloo to the rest of the world. Tougaloo is a true treasure.”
Not only will the completed project make the Tougaloo area just south of the Madison County line more accessible it is also expected to improve traffic flow in the West County Line Road area.
The project realigned 6,300 feet of the Canadian National Railroad to create the roadway underpass.
Phase 1A, completed in 2009, made improvements to West County Line Road and Richmond Grove Road west of the CN railroad, including a roadway bridge over a realigned White Oak Creek and a traffic signal at Tougaloo College entrance.
The final project Phase 1B began in 2016 and included relocating the railroad and three railroad bridges and connecting to U.S. 51 and East County Line Road.
On hand for Monday’s ribbon-cutting were members of the Jackson Fire Department, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, students and staff from Tougaloo College, and past/present City of Jackson officials and the U.S. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson.
“I was happy to partner with Jackson and Tougaloo to get this done,” Thompson said at Monday’s ceremony. “There are significant opportunities for this area. County Line Road is one of the most-traveled roads in the tri-county area.”
Thompson said he recognized the history in the area and looked forward to the private investment into the land Tougaloo owns and economic opportunities.
The project is funded in part by an $8 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grant program through the U.S. Department of Transportation for road, rail, transit, and port projects. It includes sidewalks and shared-use trails.