City leaders push for Philadelphia bypass

Published: Aug. 14, 2017 at 3:42 PM CDT
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The Philadelphia bypass that has been in the works for years will not be built due to funding difficulties. The Highway 16 project was supposed to connect Highway 15 to Highway 19 to help alleviate traffic in Philadelphia.

Although the bypass has been grounded, city leaders in Philadelphia aren't ready to throw in the towel.

"A few months ago they were telling us how close we are," says Philadelphia Mayor James Young. "Right-of-ways are just about complete and everything to go."

The Mississippi Transportation Commission says there's not enough money to build the bypass and it's now looking at funding other road and bridge projects that need attention.

"For small towns and rural areas, transportation is our life blood," says Young. "The bridges, the highways, that's what makes us grow."

The project was put into motion to help remove commercial traffic from downtown Philadelphia. While city leaders are still pushing for a bypass, downtown business owners believe a bypass would hurt their bottom line.

"It could mean that people are bypassing downtown totally," says Steve Wilkerson.

For businesses like Steve's on he Square, it's the fear of not seeing someone walk through the door again.

"We certainly wouldn't want to go into it and just think we can just put up a sign that says two miles Philadelphia and have business as usual. That wouldn't happen," says Wilkerson.

But city leaders say other highways would still feed into the downtown area

"you still have Highway 15, Highway 21, Highway 19 and Highway 16 coming into town," says Young.

Philadelphia Mayor James Young says if a bypass is eventually built, downtown would continue to thrive. The mayor also says new businesses would likely be built on the new highway.

"When and if the bypass comes, we will be prepared to keep the traffic flowing downtown," says Young.

The bypass project was estimated to cost $130 million. Mississippi Department of Transportation says all available funds are going towards preserving Mississippi's existing highway system.