AASHTO Journal, 15 May 2015
The Mississippi Transportation Commission authorized the Mississippi Department of Transportation to submit an application to designate U.S. Highway 78 as Interstate 22 in northern Mississippi.
MDOT’s application to designate that route as I-22 will go to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration for final approval. U.S. 78 has already been congressionally designated as a future interstate corridor, and will connect to I-269 in Mississippi once construction is complete.
Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert said that as growth continues in northern Mississippi, “I-22 will play a vital role in promoting safety and economic development throughout the region.” That route, he said, “will connect local communities in northeast Mississippi to the future I-269 corridor located in Marshall and Desoto counties.”
When officials were considering the potential change of designation for U.S. 78, some raised concerns about whether taking on interstate route status would result in lower truck weight limits for harvest-permitted loads that the farming industry relies on.
But the commission said those concerns were addressed this past December when President Obama signed the 2015 Fiscal Year Omnibus Appropriation Bill into law. Tagert had worked with late U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., the commission said, to include language in the bill ensuring weight limits would not be lowered once the route designation changed.
“Agriculture is the number one industry in Mississippi, and without this bill transport of these goods along I-22 would be severely crippled,” said Tagert. “This bill prevents weight limit changes that usually accompany a new interstate designation.”
The commission also said that while the process to designate an interstate is typically lengthy, changes in the 2012 MAP-21 surface transportation law allow states to request an interstate designation once that route meets federal standards and there are plans for it to connect to the existing interstate system within 25 years.
U.S. 78 meets these requirements, the commission said, adding it was built to federal standards and connects to the existing interstate system in Tennessee.