The long-awaited official opening of I-269 is at hand and Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert said MDOT officials have set 10 a.m. Oct. 26 as the date when the ribbon will be cut on the recently completed nine-mile segment of the 30-mile I-69/269 loop through DeSoto County to Tenn. Hwy. 385 near Collierville.
“Three weeks from today,” Tagert said in a telephone conversation on Friday. "We’ll have a ceremonial opening as well as the opening of the road itself. This is a 30-mile bypass associated with I-69, which will be the final 9-mile segment — the missing link.”
MDOT officials reached Friday wants motorists to know that, while the ribbon cutting will be 10 a.m. that morning, actual traffic may not be able to use the roadway until later that day.
Tagert acknowledged that phone calls and emails about the official opening date for I-269 have flooded his office.
“I’m glad to see that kind of enthusiasm,” Tagert said. “This is the final missing link. It’s a $640 million project. That’s a lot. It’s our biggest project yet.”
Tagert noted that MDOT broke ground on the 30-mile section of the nation’s newest superhighway in 2011. “We are ahead of schedule. We had a projected completion date of 2019 so overall we are one year ahead of schedule. It has gone well. In this particular last phase, we had a few days due to the contractor.”
Tagert said the nation’s newest super highway, which will one day connect Mexico to Canada, is drawing global attention.
“This certainly is a big deal,” Tagert said, adding that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has been invited to attend along with a host of state, federal and local dignitaries. Indiana officials, presently involved with constructing their portion of I-69, have also been invited to attend, according to Tagert.
“Even though this has been built with Mississippi money, we couldn’t have done it without our national partners,” Tagert said.
DeSoto County Administrator Vanessa Lynchard said public officials and regular citizens have been eagerly anticipating the highway’s opening.
“We are thrilled that I-269 is opening,” Lynchard said. “It will open up a lot of opportunities in DeSoto County. We have been planning for this for quite some time. It will be so good for our economy.”
Lynchard said additional strains will be placed on law enforcement, EMS and planning as a result of the highway’s opening but officials are ahead of the learning curve.
“We have been planning for this opening for a long time,” Lynchard said.
District 4 Supervisor Lee Caldwell said the nation’s newest superhighway will usher in a new age in DeSoto County.
“We’re hoping that one day it will connect Canada to Mexico,” Caldwell said. “I think it will make our trek across the county a lot faster."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252