JACKSON, Miss. (April 9, 2021) – A construction project launched 22 years ago is now close to being completed in Jackson, MS.
“It’s taken a lot of patience and a lot of persistence,” said Hibbett Neel, PE, President and CEO of Neel-Schaffer, the Engineer of Record for the project that will realign West County Line Road and make a variety of other changes to the roadways and infrastructure near Tougaloo College in North Jackson. Among the biggest changes are the relocation of 6,300 feet of Canadian National Railroad tracks, the addition of three overpasses and the closure of three at-grade rail crossings.
A new stretch of West County Line Road will soon connect with a section of road that was designed and then built from 1999 through 2009. Lacking sufficient funds to complete the project, the City of Jackson put the project on hold.
In 2015, the City received a $16.5 million TIGER Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help fund two projects – the reconstruction of a two-mile stretch of State Street, and the completion of the West County Line Road project.
The latest piece of the West County Line Road puzzle was put in place on March 27, 2021, when CN Railroad officially opened a new 6,300-foot raised stretch of track that was built just west of the existing line. The new stretch includes three bridges/underpasses. One bridge carries the rail over White Oak Creek. The other two will allow vehicles to pass under the rail line via Tougaloo Village Road and the new extension to West County Line Road.
Currently, West County Line Road terminates at State Street (US Highway 51), and then resumes northwest of the railroad tracks. To reach that part of the road, vehicles must travel a zig-zag route that takes them from West County Line Road east of the tracks, onto State Street for a short stretch, and then onto Tougaloo Village Road, which eventually reconnects them with West County Line Road on the west side of the tracks.
With the new rail line in operation, demolition has begun on the existing line. When the old tracks are removed, West County Line Road will be extended to the west, under the new bridge, and directly connected to the other section of West County Line. Construction on that phase has begun and is expected to take several months.
As mentioned earlier, the completion of this project is being funded in part by a TIGER Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. TIGER is an acronym for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.
City of Jackson and Tougaloo College officials have long hoped that the seamless connection of West County Line Road would open economic opportunities around the college. A Tougaloo College Master Plan, authored in 2019 by the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, shows a mix of campus expansion, large retail, large and small office, hotel and residential development.
Construction on the West County Line Road project resumed in January 2018. Now, the finish line is near. By the summer, Neel-Schaffer engineers, who designed the changes and are providing construction management and inspection services, say the project should be completed soon.
“Though it has taken 22 years from conception to finish, I believe our persistence has finally paid off,” said Hibbett Neel. “It has been an honor to work for the City of Jackson on this important project, which will enhance the safety of motorists traveling on State Street and West County Line Road and will greatly benefit future development of Tougaloo College and the areas surrounding the school.”