By the Way

A big-city perspective on Ocean Springs’ traffic problems

Traffic begins to back up in the eastbound lane approaching Halstead Road in Ocean Springs on a Monday several years ago.
Traffic begins to back up in the eastbound lane approaching Halstead Road in Ocean Springs on a Monday several years ago. Special to the Sun Herald File

During a recent interview, I got off track with Dick Siemeck, who grew up in Chicago but has lived the last 30 years in and around Ocean Springs.

I asked him if he considered Ocean Springs traffic on U.S. 90 “bad.”

He laughed and said he knows what’s wrong with Ocean Springs traffic:

In Chicago, 17 people pull up to a red light and wait. When the light turns green, 17 people take their foot off the brake and prepare to move forward.

In Ocean Springs, when the light turns green, he said, the first person in line looks up and sees the change, then decides to go.

He moves forward and the next guy in line sees what’s happening and makes a decision to move, then puts his foot on the gas, and so forth, on down the line.

The light usually turns red before more than four or five cars get through.

Siemeck may have something there. But that’s not all of it.

MDOT’s Kelly Castleberry, district engineer for the Mississippi Department of Transportation, said they went in a year ago, did a study and changed the timing of some traffic signals, but that didn’t help much.

He believes the solution is a third lane in each direction. And MDOT has that budgeted for 2020.

No matter what you do, traffic gets tricky when schools let out, he said, especially when 1,800 high school students hit the road east of the city.

Siemeck said, Castleberry misses the point in my view by far, suggesting another lane will solve the problem.

“It’ll just mean three lanes of traffic instead of two, piled up at the way too many lights in town,” he said.

There are just too many lights on the main coastal highway, he said, and I suspect there’s little chance of any towns people giving up their intersection light.

“It’s symbolic of the pervasive perspective on this Coast that we’re just a bunch of little communities sheltered among the pines. That day, alas, is gone forever.”

What do you think?

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