Highway Priorities

"If it was my road I think I would fix it," said Chief Martin.

Chief Phillip Martin is talking about Highway 19, specifically the portion that stretches from Collinsville to Philadelphia.

Since the tribe opened its first casino in 1992 transportation officials say traffic on Highway 19 entering Philadelphia has more than doubled. With the recent grand opening of a second casino, tribal officials project that number to increase even more.

As with Highway 16 which runs directly in front of the casinos, Chief Martin says Highway 19 is now also in need of being four-laned.

"They didn't build this road here because Choctaw were here. They built this road because other people are here and those same people are here and they ought to get up off their hiney and start raising cane about having a safe road that comes through their community, that's the only way it's going to work," Chief Phillip Martin, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians said.

During the regular legislative session earlier this year, lawmakers approved the Vision 21 plan. The good news is that the plan list four-laning Highway 19 as a top priority. The bad news is that the plan will not be enacted until a previously approved four-laning initiative is finished. Transportation officials tell us that won't happen until around the year 2006.

Although it will likely be several years before the stretch of Highway 19 from Collinsville to Philadelphia is four-laned, Chief Martin says this will not hinder development on the reservation.

"We're not going to wait for anybody," Martin said. "We're going to go ahead even if we just have cow trails coming through here!"