UPDATE: Lt. Gov. Reeves talks controversial road plan

The Mississippi Department of Transportation is putting the brakes on a plan to build a $2 million access road to a gated subdivision where Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves lives.

Posted: Jul 11, 2018 9:18 AM
Updated: Jul 11, 2018 3:42 PM

Update 07/11/18 - Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is asking the state's top transportation administrator to assist him in identifying any inappropriate actions of legislators or legislative staff regarding construction of a frontage road along Highway 25.

MORE: See the full letter here

See the original story below.

FLOWOOD, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Department of Transportation is putting the brakes on a plan to build a $2 million access road to a gated subdivision where Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves lives.

Transportation commissioners said they made the decision during conversations Tuesday. It happened after the Clarion Ledger reported that the department's executive director, Melinda McGrath, said there was "political pressure" from the Legislature to build the road in the Jackson suburb of Flowood.

McGrath wouldn't say who was pressuring her other than to say "the Senate side." Republican Reeves leads the Senate.

Commissioner Dick Hall said he and his two colleagues will evaluate the need for the road.

"I'm not saying we're not going to do it, but we're going to postpone it and re-evaluate the need for it," Hall told the newspaper.

Commissioner Tom King told The Associated Press there is no safety reason to support building the road.

McGrath said much of the communication from the Capitol to her department has been verbal. But records show Reeves' staff and his neighborhood's property owners association have communicated with the department about the frontage road, which would parallel busy Lakeland Drive between a shopping center and the entrance to two subdivisions in Flowood.

Reeves declined to be interviewed. A spokeswoman for the lieutenant governor said the city of Flowood and the state negotiated the project.

"The lieutenant governor suggested a red light years ago at the intersection due to a number of accidents that had occurred. MDOT evidently did not view that as a good option," the spokeswoman said. "He does support the frontage road as a safe alternative."

Flowood Mayor Gary Rhoads said he knows of no political pressure from Reeves to build the road and said the city pushed for it as a "safety issue."

From December 2017 through May, there was only one crash at the corner and it was not severe. The intersection scored low on MDOT engineers' "severity index" before and after widening.

Records indicate the Oakridge Property Owners' Association opposed the city of Flowood's support for MDOT building a right turn lane and associated U-turn, a $200,000 alternative to the new $2 million road. The head of the homeowners association favored continuing to allow left turns across a widened Lakeland, saying safety wasn't a problem.

"We have used that crossover for more than 10 years (since the inception of our neighborhood) with relatively few safety problems," Walter Brand, president of the Oakridge Property Owners' Association, wrote to Rhoads.

Reeves has been critical of the Department of Transportation. This year, as the House and Senate sparred over road spending plans and failed to pass anything, Reeves proposed a plan to give the governor much more control over road spending. Reeves is widely expected to run for governor in 2019. One component of Reeves' plan was to strip $125 million from MDOT over five years.

The discussion comes as the state struggles to pay to maintain existing roads and bridges. Reeves and the Senate earlier forced the department to spend $43 million widening Lakeland, which is part of state-maintained Mississippi 25.

"Have you ever ridden down Highway 25? It is without question the project that needs funding more than any other, and for whatever reason the Department of Transportation has not made it a priority," Reeves said at the time.

It's also the most direct route from Reeves' home to the Capitol.

House members blocked the move in 2014, killing the annual transportation funding bill and forcing a special session. But Senate negotiators earmarked a 2015 bill requiring the agency to widen the road, forcing the department to spend millions that would have gone to other projects.

In a list of early "demands" the neighborhood gave to the department, homeowners wanted the new road to be one-way from the neighborhood to Dogwood Boulevard. Transportation officials balked at building what would have essentially been a private driveway.

The neighborhood voiced concerns over whether it would be reimbursed for property for the project before agreeing to donate it. The state paid other property owners $323,000.

At one point in negotiations a lawyer wrote to the head of the homeowners' group that: "MDOT instructed me to point out that this project is for the benefit solely of the Oakridge homeowners and expeditious execution (of deeds and easements) would be appreciated."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 320292

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22299271
Hinds20782424
Harrison18455317
Rankin13933282
Jackson13740249
Madison10276225
Lee10068176
Jones8475167
Forrest7845153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6524150
Lamar636688
Lafayette6315121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4842133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4610148
Marshall4576105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc426173
Monroe4163136
Union415977
Neshoba4066180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3374111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314771
Adams308586
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292468
Prentiss284461
Leake272474
Marion271480
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
Tishomingo232469
Winston230382
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210759
Holmes190574
Stone188833
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135547
Greene131934
Lawrence131424
Montgomery128943
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126542
Carroll122330
Webster115132
Jefferson Davis108534
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79218
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549394

Reported Deaths: 11328
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810851571
Mobile42180832
Madison35733524
Tuscaloosa26186460
Shelby25638255
Montgomery25103615
Baldwin21921314
Lee16301176
Calhoun14725329
Morgan14650286
Etowah14192364
Marshall12465230
Houston10798289
Elmore10302214
Limestone10191157
St. Clair10166251
Cullman9975201
Lauderdale9621250
DeKalb8978190
Talladega8467184
Walker7351281
Autauga7244113
Jackson6993113
Blount6957139
Colbert6418140
Coffee5650128
Dale4931116
Russell455241
Chilton4476116
Franklin432082
Covington4283123
Tallapoosa4137155
Escambia402380
Chambers3731124
Dallas3609158
Clarke353361
Marion3264107
Pike314878
Lawrence3135100
Winston283672
Bibb268664
Geneva258782
Marengo250566
Pickens237062
Barbour234460
Hale227078
Butler225071
Fayette219763
Henry194844
Randolph187744
Cherokee187545
Monroe181041
Washington170639
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156157
Cleburne153744
Lamar147237
Lowndes142154
Wilcox126830
Bullock124642
Conecuh113830
Coosa112129
Perry108826
Sumter106032
Greene93734
Choctaw62125
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
87° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 94°
Columbus
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 96°
Oxford
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 88°
Starkville
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 86°
More hot and humid conditions will be in store for our area on Friday. We will see some isolated showers and thunderstorms as the rule on Friday. All of this will be due to some bits and pieces of low pressure working their way through our area.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather