Jackson County

This is one road closure that’s welcome: Installing signals on Old Fort Bayou

Workers install cable for a traffic signal that will be at the intersection of Old Fort Bayou Road and Yellow Jacket Boulevard.
Workers install cable for a traffic signal that will be at the intersection of Old Fort Bayou Road and Yellow Jacket Boulevard. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

This is one road closure the community welcomes, no matter how much fuss and bother it may cause.

Jackson County has announced that traffic on Old Fort Bayou Road will be “reduced to one lane during the daylight hours” next week.

It means the first big part of the long-awaited Old Fort Bayou Road improvement project will be coming to a close. A bad curve has been straightened and Old Fort Bayou is now better aligned with Yellow Jacket Road, where three county schools are located.

The lane will close so crews can install new traffic signals at the intersection beginning Monday.

A county spokeswoman said they don’t expect to need more than two or three days to install the signals, even though the notice to motorists warns it may be closed all week. The lane closure was timed to start while schools are out for Christmas break and traffic at the intersection is at a minimum.

Travel will be permitted in both directions on an alternating basis so stops are to be expected. Flagmen will be on site giving directions to motorists. Although delays should be minor, motorists are encouraged to use alternate routes if available and to use caution, watching for construction workers, equipment and other motorists.

Straightening the curve at a cost of $2.4 million was the first part of improving Old Fort Bayou, a major thoroughfare for school and residential traffic in St. Martin. The next phase, expected in 18 months, would be to change where Old Fort Bayou Road enters North Washington Avenue. That $2.2 million phase would align Old Fort Bayou with the entrance to The Reserve, a massive apartment complex on the west side of North Washington.

Then the final phase, expected to cost $6 million, would be to widen Old Fort Bayou from North Washington to Yellow Jacket, making it three lanes, accompanied by a 10-foot wide sidewalk and bike path. That phase has required the county to buy 51 parcels.

It’s all about safety, Jackson County Supervisor Troy Ross has said when pitching the project to fellow supervisors. MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration have pitched in on funding the project. The final phase is expected to be paid for with money from a $20 million county bond issue.

The improvements have been needed for decades. Jackson County school officials have pushed hard for the road work. And it’s finally coming to fruition.