The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors is working on getting the ball rolling for the Blackjack Road Project, which the county has worked on for several years now.
This project will fully widen and reconstruct Blackjack Road, and District 5 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said the project will be significant.
“There will be quite amount of base work, a quite amount of widening and drainage," Trainer said. "I know the total amount is about $7 million. Some of those funds are coming through MSU and MDA (Mississippi Development Authority). The county is putting about a little bit more than $4.5 million in the project.”
Because of the unsafe road conditions students and residents face when driving on Blackjack Road, Trainer said the project will possibly be finished in two calendar years.
“I would say in complete entirety, give it two years,” Trainer said. “What’s going to have to happen is you give that the weather, you can’t control it. If we can get all these issues resolved, we can get that project bid let’s say next month. Then perhaps somebody could probably go to work within 90 days, so that’ll throw them within the summer really doing it. They could make some significant improvements to that roadway before the end of the year. It probably wouldn’t be finished. If everything goes well, I would say two years, we should have that project completed.”
According to Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill, she faces concerned residents frequently regarding Blackjack Road.
“It is almost daily that I receive comments and concerns regarding Blackjack Road,” Spruill said. “I understand that so many people believe that area is located in the city limits of Starkville, and they reach out for help and clarification on when it will be addressed.”
The county has to gain permission through easements from the land owners on Blackjack Road before the project can begin. Furthermore, some of the private land owners are concerned regarding this project.
“Everybody has their own perspective, and you never know what people have as far of the point of concerns until you sit down and talk with them,” Trainer said.
While the private landowners have their concerns, Trainer said the county is locating people to sign the documents for the apartment complexes.
“In theory, you would think those apartment complexes would be in favor of that, because actually, they contribute to the problem,” Trainer said. “Once the problem is corrected, it would probably be beneficial.”
According to Trainer, almost all of the issues faced so far have been worked out.
“Fortunately, today I can say we have either received or have some confirmation of all the property owners," Trainer said. "We are so close to getting that information we need, and that should lead to the beginning of the construction process."
Junior political science major Emily Case was struck by a drunk driver while on Blackjack Road two and a half years ago. While the road did not cause her accident, she said she feels the road is in need of reparations.
“Blackjack is actually something that I’ve been dealing with since my accident,” Case said. “I would say me getting hit didn’t necessarily have to do with Blackjack. I do think it is a heavily-trafficked road that definitely needs repaired because it’s not very safe to drive on nor like cross.”
Case, the Student Association Vice President-elect, said she has written various pieces of legislation, including a piece that would lead to a cross walk being placed at the intersection of Blackjack Road and Hardy.
“They did add the cross walk, but I honestly would like to see them add like a pedestrian sign or one of the flashing lights because at nighttime just having stripes on the road isn’t going to help immensely,” Case said.
With her pieces of legislation, Case said she wanted to write legislation to represent the people, especially those who live or travel on Blackjack Road.
“I feel like that’s something that every student can resonate with,” Case said. “They’ve at least driven down Blackjack or know what it is. Everyone knows there is a million and one potholes. There are so many places that students live off of Blackjack. I would love if this gets up and going because it’s been a long time coming.”
Like Case, Spruill is hopeful the county will begin construction to improve the condition of Blackjack Road.
"I am hopeful that the county will be able to obtain the necessary permission in the very near future so that these improvements can be made as soon as possible, and the university can likewise begin its improvements, since one is contingent on the other," Spruill said.
Trainer is ready to move forward with this project, and he is eager for these improvements to begin.
“We’re ready to move forward,” Trainer said. “Hopefully, no one will have a significant amount of damage or fatalities before we get that thing improved. We’ve just kind of be holding our breath. I just ask people to be patient with us over these matters.”
According to a press release from the Starkville Police Department, another road project will begin soon, in which Locksley Way will receive a full overlay, re-striping, sidewalk and bike lane, while Blackjack Road will receive the addition of a multi-use pathway. This is separate from the Blackjack Road project.