No doubt thousands of motorists will be on the roads in the days leading up to Christmas, trying to find the perfect gifts for their loved ones.
Northside law enforcement officers recently discussed the expected increase in traffic, as well as suggested alternative routes that could shave minutes off of their commutes.
Above all authorities are urging drivers to practice caution and stay off their cell phones while behind the wheel.
“We do see an increase in wrecks because people are in too big a hurry and are not allowing enough time to get to the place they’re going,” said Precinct Four Cmdr. Keith Freeman.
Freeman said the busiest areas in Jackson will be East County Line Road, Northside Drive and the I-55 North frontage road.
“County Line gets extremely backed up,” he said. “Give yourself an extra 30 minutes to get to where you’re going.”
County Line is home to Northpark Mall and other shopping venues. Motorists typically use Exit 100 to access the Highland Village shopping center.
The commander offered several alternative routes for motorists hoping to avoid the worst of the traffic.
For those traveling north to County Line, he suggests taking Ridgewood Road, Old Canton Road or Pear Orchard Road, rather than the interstate.
Motorists traveling south to County Line can also avoid traffic at the County Line/I-55 interchange by accessing the corridor from Ridgewood or Pear Orchard, he said.
Traffic on the alternative routes, though, still promise to be busy.
While East County Line averages between 32,000 and 37,000 vehicles a day, Ridgewood near County Line sees about 10,000 motorists a day. Old Canton and Pear Orchard in Jackson average around 21,000 and 6,600 a day, respectively, numbers that are likely to increase during peak shopping times.
In Ridgeland alternate routes are also heavily used. About 10,000 vehicles a day use Pear Orchard north of County Line, while Ridgewood north of the busy commercial corridor averages around 7,400, according to Mississippi Department of Transportation figures.
Freeman doesn’t expect any major road closures during the construction, but did want to remind shoppers that construction continues on North State Street, north of Northside Drive.
Ridgeland officials are urging drivers to take note of construction at Northpark Mall.
The mall is currently undergoing major renovations, including the milling and overlaying of Ring Road, the mall’s circular drive, Lt. Tony Willridge said.
Because of work there, Ridgeland hadn’t decided if it would close off the mall’s Wheatley Street exit.
Typically, police close the mall’s Wheatley exit to reduce congestion at Northpark’s main entrance.
However, because of construction on Ring Road, Willridge said RPD hadn’t determined if the exit needed to be closed.
Police also expect traffic to be heavy along Highland Colony Parkway, which is home to the Township and Renaissance at Colony Park.
This year, motorists will have two access points to the parkway, with the opening of Colony Park Boulevard.
The boulevard provides a new east-west route connecting the parkway to Sunnybrook Road.
To avoid traffic at Old Agency Road, motorists can take the exit at Steed Road and travel north on the frontage road to Colony Park.
In Madison, traffic during the holidays usually picks up along Grandview Boulevard, Mississippi 463 and Madison Parkway.
Police Cpt. Kevin Newman said residents can avoid traffic at the I-55/463 interchange by taking the I-55 North frontage road to Madison Avenue. From there, motorists can turn north on Grandview to access the city’s major shopping destinations.
MDOT officials don’t expect any major road closures in the metro area during the shopping season.
Safe-driving tips from MDOT:
• Buckle up.
• Get plenty of rest before driving.
• Always use caution in the work zones.
• Watch out for wildlife, especially at dusk and dawn. Cooler temperatures mean deer and other wildlife are more active.
• Do not drive impaired.
• Plan ahead.