Another part of what will become the I-269 loop from I-55 north of Hernando east toward Lewisburg and on into Marshall County, ending at Tennessee Highway 385 near Collierville, Tenn., is officially open for use.
A ceremonial ribbon-cutting event was held in Byhalia Tuesday morning, to officially declare the roadway open.
It is the second of three segments of the interstate to now carry traffic. The first, from state Highway 302 north into Tennessee, has been used since October 2015.
This latest segment to be opened goes from north of Lewisburg at the state Highway 305 exit, then heads east and north into Marshall County and the current segment available north of state Highway 302 east of Barton.
Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, speaking Tuesday after the opening of the new roadway, said the entire completion of the interstate is about 12 months away.
“When we broke on the project in 2011, we anticipated the fall of 2019 for completion of the entire connector,” Tagert said. “We anticipate the final segment from I-55 to 305 open in the fall of 2018. We’re about a year ahead of schedule and barring any major catastrophic weather events, we should be able to finish the entire project at this time next year.”
Tagert pointed out that, while this is an expensive project to get done, the overall benefit from the new interstate will help spur growth in the DeSoto-Marshall County area.
“This project is being built to the highest standards, which are federal interstate standards, which accommodate the greatest truck movement and the greatest weight movement in our country, and North America for that matter, Canada through the United States down to Mexico,” said Tagert. “These projects are particularly costly, but they have such an incredible return on that investment, which I think DeSoto and Marshall counties, and the state, will immediately realize. The total price tag on the major overall number for this work is approximately $600 million.”
Many officials, including Tagert, feel I-269 should accelerate growth and provide safer roadways elsewhere in the Mid-South region, as more semitrailer trucks and other such vehicles look to the roadway as a better alternative through the Mid-South to other parts of the country.
“It will be tremendous asset in economic development and attracting new business and manufacturing to the county,” Tagert said. “Something that sometimes gets overlooked is the vast safety improvements that this route will provide. It will really incrementally relieve some pressure on a lot of our local access roads, both within the municipalities and the county itself.”
In his comments about the interstate section being opened during Tuesday night’s Southaven Board of Aldermen meeting, Mayor Darren Musselwhite acknowledged again the importance of the connection.
“That’ll be huge for our community and the county,” Musselwhite said. “With economic development and it will give some relief to I-55 and the Church Road area. That will relieve some of the traffic because you’ll be able to bypass the area by hitting I-269. It’s a big deal.”
DeSoto County Board of Supervisors President Michael Lee also noted how the roadway makes the entire county more open to travelers coming through the county.
“I-269 will make DeSoto County much more accessible to those in the region and will generate new and exciting economic opportunities due to ease of access,” Lee said.
Tagert added his thanks to local partnerships that helped keep the I-269 construction work top of mind to completion.
“This would not have been possible without a significant team effort between the municipalities, Marshall and DeSoto counties, and between the counties themselves,” Tagert said.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.