In the year 2000, the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District identified the extension of Lake Harbour Drive to Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland as part of its plan for 2020.
That plan, more than 20 years in the making, will soon be a reality as the Lake Harbour Drive extension is nearing completion. The four-lane road will connect Lake Harbour from Highway 51 to Highland Colony Parkway.
Mayor Gene McGee said it should be completed by the end of August. The approximately $28 million project is expected to not only alleviate traffic in the area, including on West Jackson Street, but also aid in economic development.
According to a 2015 article in the Northside Sun, a traffic study revealed that approximately 2,500 vehicles traveled along Lake Harbour Drive daily, making it one of the busiest thoroughfares on the Northside.
Since then, with the continuous residential and commercial growth in south Madison County, the number of vehicles making use of the east-west corridor is steadily increasing.
The road is not only a major retail hub for the city, but is also a chief connector to Spillway Road and the Ross Barnett Reservoir.
When Mayor McGee first moved to Ridgeland in 1971, he described Lake Harbour Drive as merely a quiet country road. In fact, he said it was not entirely paved until the ‘80s.
“When it left Highway 51, Lake Harbour went for about a mile and a half past Wheatley Street and turned into dirt,” McGee said in a 2008 Sun article. “It picked back up again later.”
However, with the paving of the remainder of the road came commercial growth, which is what the newest extension of Lake Harbour Drive is anticipated to bring as well. With improved traffic flow between Highland Colony Parkway to Highway 51 comes increased access to local businesses, which McGee believes will impact the city’s economy.
“It will be a great connection to the east part of the city and will really benefit Northpark,” McGee said.
One of the more important parts of the project for McGee is that the extension will reduce the number of vehicles that travel down West Jackson Street so that the city can continue its work in creating more of a downtown feel there.
Funding for the Lake Harbour extension has come from several sources. The city received $1 million from Madison County, $10 million from the state and approximately $2 to 3 million from the federal government to fund the project. The remaining portion of the cost was funded through city bonds.
The remaining work to be completed within the next month includes “odds and ends,” such as final touches on the railroad crossing and striping, according to McGee.
The project was completed in phases, with Phase A of the Lake Harbour Drive extension being the box culvert under the railroad that runs along Highway 51, which was an important part of the endeavor.
McGee told the Sun in 2015 that the box culvert portion of the project was separated to a different phase, as it was more efficient and cost-effective due to the type of work it required.
The new culvert replaced the 100-year-old Illinois Central box culvert, which allows Purple Creek to run under the railroad track.
Phase B included construction of the roadway and bridge.
Work officially got underway on Lake Harbour Drive extension last year when two contracts were issued to tackle the 18-month project.
Hemphill Construction was awarded the contract to install the box culvert under the railroad. Eutaw Construction got the contract for the road and bridge part of the project.
The contract for the road project was projected to cost $14 million, but the total project cost with right-of-way acquisition, moving utilities and more brought the cost upwards of $28 million.
In addition to the road, a 10-foot-wide multi use trail will run alongside the extension and connect Highland Colony Parkway to Old Canton Road.