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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.

Confirmed Cases: 69374

Reported Deaths: 1989
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5768121
DeSoto375331
Harrison265136
Madison248972
Jackson239145
Rankin232238
Jones194762
Forrest185857
Washington172244
Lee156342
Lauderdale143993
Neshoba130694
Lamar124115
Bolivar115636
Warren113735
Oktibbeha113639
Lowndes110240
Panola109117
Sunflower107127
Lafayette101820
Scott101720
Copiah97128
Leflore95968
Pike95137
Holmes92349
Yazoo87013
Pontotoc8579
Grenada85626
Lincoln84643
Monroe83155
Simpson82131
Leake79927
Coahoma78913
Wayne78921
Tate74630
Marshall7299
Union70017
Marion68921
Adams64226
Covington63715
Winston63516
George6038
Pearl River56740
Newton55511
Tallahatchie54711
Attala53325
Walthall51121
Chickasaw48819
Noxubee46312
Tishomingo4449
Prentiss44110
Alcorn4395
Calhoun4269
Smith41213
Claiborne40914
Hancock40915
Jasper4089
Clay40414
Itawamba39510
Tippah38814
Tunica3657
Montgomery3456
Clarke34328
Lawrence3298
Yalobusha31810
Humphreys29912
Quitman2751
Carroll26211
Greene26213
Perry2488
Webster24813
Amite2406
Jefferson Davis2406
Kemper24014
Stone2245
Wilkinson22013
Sharkey2065
Jefferson1967
Benton1541
Choctaw1384
Franklin1352
Issaquena272
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 100801

Reported Deaths: 1814
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13463261
Mobile10671216
Montgomery6955153
Madison551035
Tuscaloosa432780
Unassigned398568
Baldwin371029
Shelby336137
Marshall319938
Lee272447
Morgan242520
Etowah219034
DeKalb185214
Calhoun182819
Elmore176739
Walker154865
Houston145013
Russell13912
Limestone137813
St. Clair137520
Dallas134725
Franklin130822
Cullman123812
Colbert122518
Lauderdale120320
Autauga118822
Escambia109417
Jackson10724
Talladega106914
Tallapoosa87679
Dale85029
Chambers84838
Chilton8279
Blount8255
Clarke82110
Coffee7796
Butler77336
Covington74621
Pike7167
Marion58726
Barbour5816
Lowndes57524
Marengo56817
Bullock49211
Hale48826
Winston45711
Bibb4535
Washington44913
Perry4464
Wilcox43610
Monroe4246
Pickens41110
Randolph40311
Conecuh39410
Sumter36618
Lawrence3563
Macon34114
Crenshaw3318
Choctaw28912
Cherokee2798
Clay2775
Geneva2652
Henry2643
Greene25311
Lamar2302
Fayette2235
Cleburne1291
Coosa1053
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