Drivers turning onto U.S. 49 from two-lane Landon Road often have to wait through three and four traffic-light changes before they finally make it onto the highway.
It’s maddening at certain times of the day, such as mornings before 8 and late afternoons.
Some of it is morning traffic — people going to work and parents getting their children to school. The bulk of it is shoppers, restaurant-goers and hotel patrons headed to the businesses right off U.S. 49, city officials say.
No matter. Everyone has agreed for years that Landon Road needs to be wider. That appears to be coming, at least for the first half-mile.
At the end of the month, the city, county and Mississippi Department of Transportation will hold a public meeting at the Orange Grove Community Center on Dedeaux Road, where people will have a chance to weigh in on what they think is the best route for a wider Landon Road.
After that is settled, the game is on. A road will be designed, rights of way purchased, permits secured, and, most likely, city officials say, in two years work will begin.
Landon Road is a major connector road just north of Interstate 10 that runs from U.S. 49 to Canal Road, a county thoroughfare that also has access to I-10. It is a route to the Gulfport Sportsplex ballfields and Gulf Islands Waterpark.
Also, Gulfport’s single biggest retail shop, the Coast’s only Sam’s Club warehouse store, is along the road, as are some subdivisions and a new business row called Anchor Plaza. The plaza, which runs parallel to U.S. 49, has two large Hilton hotel properties and two major restaurants. Two more hotels have received permits to build, and there’s room for much more.
More than 7,400 cars a day travel Landon Road, according to the Gulf Regional Planning Commission traffic map.
Wider is necessary
City Councilwoman Cara Pucheu, whose ward includes Landon Road, has made its widening a priority since she took office in 2009, she said.
There have been some holdups. Community Baptist Church on the south side of the road didn’t want to be bought out, leaving the city to consider going around it.
That has changed, she said. The church is now willing to sell. So when residents and businesses attend the public meeting from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 30, they’ll find engineers indicating the likely route will be simply expanding the road bed along the south side of Landon Road from U.S. 49, the half-mile to 34th Street.
It has been a drawn-out process, Pucheu said. Plans for two or three years have worked around the church. Since the church changed its mind, that has been redone, she said. Still, there are five route choices, including doing nothing.
“We’re all trying to go in the right direction, but that direction has five different choices, and we’re trying to make the best choice,” she said.
After the route is secured, environmental requirements and permits will have to be obtained. Engineering on the redesign will start right away and take six to eight months, City Engineer Kris Reimann said. He estimates it will take another six to eight months to purchase the land for the rights of way.
Reimann said it could take about eight months to build the road, starting in about two years.
“I would sure hope it’s started by then,” Pucheu said, “because it’s miserable right now.”
Tournaments at the Sportsplex on weekends can attract more than 200 teams for softball, baseball or soccer. The hotels fill up and spill out onto Landon Road coming and going.
“What kind of impression does that make on visitors?” Pucheu said.
Reimann said the new road will be six lanes — two in each direction with two turning lanes.
“If we can fit in a median in, we will,” he said.
The $4 million project also will improve the rail crossing near U.S. 49 and vastly improve the traffic signal on Landon Road, but not add more signals. Money for the project is in place, through MDOT and Gulf Regional.
The city has known there was a need to widen Landon Road since the Sam’s Club moved there from south of Interstate 10. It would like to see the widening extend to Canal Road, but that will take coordination with Harrison County — and a lot more money.
As road construction starts, Reimann assures drivers, “They will divert traffic to the new sections as they are built. There shouldn’t be road closures that would cause problems for businesses.
“It won’t be any worse than it is today.”
What: Public meeting on Landon Road widening
When: 4 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 30
Where: Orange Grove Community Center, 14416 Dedeaux Road, Gulfport
Presenters: City, county and MDOT leaders
Reason: Select a path for widening of a half-mile of Landon Road from U.S. 49 to 34th Street