Since the new school year at Mississippi State University began, on-campus traffic has been a concern for many people due to the overflow of automobiles in central areas. To many students, the root of this issue appears to be a lack of parking accommodations and on-site traffic guidance. However, the uncertainty of the new, in-person school year manifested itself into an influx of traffic on campus.
Executive director of MSU Parking and Transit Services Jeremiah Dumas assured students and faculty the latest traffic jams are a combination of new students, new commuters and the confusion that comes with the beginning of a fall semester.
Dumas noted that more than 1,500 new parking spaces have been added to MSU's campus in the last couple of years. Though it seems like few parking spaces are available, Dumas explained Parking and Transit Services reviews parking on campus each year and determined that MSU has more than enough spaces per permit allocation.
"We are not near capacity," Dumas said. "One of the things that always happens at the first of the year is that everybody wants to park as close to the building as they can, and it is challenging for us when we are able to look in other parking lots in their zone and see that there's available spaces."
Dumas believes faculty and students can resolve the traffic issue within the first month of the semester by properly researching where they can park.
"Students and staff panic and think there are not enough spaces, but there actually are. We just need folks to continue to look in their zone and know what all is available to them," Dumas said. "First and foremost, understand where your parking zone is as well as the lots that are available to you. Please do not try to relocate your car after every class."
Additionally, Dumas said people who drop off students at their building cause more traffic because the driver stops in the middle of the road and affects traffic.
Campus traffic is not the only point of interest for MSU students, as the completion of Blackjack Road is another commonly discussed topic since the beginning of its construction in 2020. Blackjack Road provides access to several student housing complexes as well as multiple entrances into the university, making it an important part of Starkville transportation.
Nic Parish, vice president of Burns Construction, described the progress of Blackjack Road as successful and believes the crew will complete the road this fall.
"Over the summer, we were able to get the old roadway removed, replaced and paved. We are working on the third lane and hoping to start curbs on it next week. All the traffic on all three lanes should be open sometime around mid-October. I think you will see no construction equipment out there around the first of November," Parish said.
Regarding the influx of traffic on both Blackjack Road and on campus, Vance Rice, MSU Police Department chief of police, said traffic is temporary and primarily depends on the faculty and students to relieve the issue.
Vance explained that the first weeks of school brings in traffic that is difficult to predict because each car is going to a different location on campus, unlike traffic for scheduled events, such as football games. Therefore, the MSU Police Department cannot set up traffic routes because it would block off areas of campus where people need to go.
"There is literally almost nothing we can do. People just have to learn their location and where they are going to be able to go and not go," Rice said.
Students and faculty can diminish their traffic and parking concerns by familiarizing themselves with their parking zones and using the MSU-provided transportation system. Issues with both Blackjack Road and campus traffic should resolve within the semester, resulting in faster access to everyone's destinations.