Thursday, June 8, 2023

Local Leaders Send Letter to State Officials Asking for More Hwy 7 Funds

Representatives from the seven counties that Highway 7 runs through sent a letter to Gov. Tate Reeves and all state senators and representatives, asking for additional project funding to improve the highway.

The Coalition for a Safer Seven was formed in January to increase awareness, show need, show benefits of improving the highway and then seek state and federal financial support.

Highway 7 runs from the Tennessee state line in Benton County to Belzoni, Mississippi. It travels approximately 168 miles serving Humphreys, Leflore, Grenada, Yalobusha, Lafayette, Marshall and Benton counties.

The letter, signed by Mayor Robyn Tannehill, Supervisor and Lafayette County Board President Mike Roberts, and other representatives from the coalition, expressed frustration and concerns with the lack of continued investment to maintain and improve Highway 7.

“While the traffic dynamics shift and hazards increase, the essential funds needed for key improvements are not keeping pace,” the letter states.

While the coalition recognized fiscal challenges at all levels of government, it expressed the need for multi-jurisdictional efforts along the highway requiring coordination, cooperation, and funding beyond any individual town or county.

“We strong believe that additional investment will results in significant and positive impacts well beyond the scope of usual highway investment,” the letter states.

Highway 7 is a significant route in Mississippi that connects with several notable places, like the Belzoni, the catfish capital of the world; the historic Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena; Grenada, Enid and Sardis lakes; the University of Mississippi; Holly Springs National Park; Rust College and more.

In Lafayette County, the widening of Highway 7 has been a priority for many years.

Ten years ago, MDOT announced plans to widen Highway 7 to four lanes from Belk Boulevard to the Highway 7/9 split.

Many property owners were contacted about MDOT purchasing property for rights-of-way, and a few utilities were moved; however, in 2015, MDOT announced the project had stalled due to a lack of funding.

In 2018, MDOT announced it would be building a roundabout at the split. That project is expected to be let out for bids in the late spring or summer of this year.