2 states on different paths with US Highway 82

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GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) - The sign to the east of the Greenville Bridge is unambiguous: road closed.

What it doesn’t say with equal clarity is that the road - actually a would-be highway: the U.S. Highway 82 Greenville Bypass - has never opened.

And no one can say for sure if it ever will.

To the west, on the Arkansas side of the bridge, work continues on four-laning, as transportation engineers put it, U.S. 82 from the bridge to the U.S. 65 junction east of Lake Village.

Early next month, the ubiquitous orange barrels that for now restrict traffic to a single lane either way will be hauled off. Lane striping for the three miles east of a yet-to-be-completed bridge over Ditch Bayou leading into Lake Chicot has been applied.

That 362-foot bridge, said David Henning, a district engineer for the Arkansas Department of Transportation, will be completed this spring, weather permitting, and that will permit unrestricted four-lane traffic from the Greenville Bridge to Lake Village, a 4.42-mile, $16 million project on which ground was broken in April 2011.

To the east of the bridge, Mississippi’s Department of Transportation so far has invested a total of $57 million in the Greenville Bypass - $25 million for right of way, design work and the moving of utilities, and other $32 million in actual construction, including dirt work, bridges and drainage.

“We spent $25 million on the project before we ever put the first shovel in the ground,” said Kevin Magee, a MDOT district engineer.

For now, the first phase of the envisioned 15.5-mile project is in a ghostlike state of incompletion, the roadbed built and level and bridges spanning it for County Road 454, at Wilcox Road and Redman Road, at Main Street Extended and at Mississippi Highway 1, shortly after which it ends, the bypass to nowhere.

It will cost an estimated $120 million more to complete the highway through to Leland, Magee said.

U.S. 82 “has been an emphasis for Mississippi for years,” Magee said. “We four-laned 82 all the way across the state and encouraged our neighbors, Arkansas and Alabama, to do the same. The 82 corridor have long been identified as a very important route for Mississippi.

“In that same vein, Mississippi provided emphasis in getting the new bridge built. We championed that new crossing.”

The four-lane bridge opened in 2010, replacing a two-lane terror that dated to the middle of the past century.

“We finished four-laning 82 in the late ‘70s before I even started to drive,” said Magee, who is 49.

The last section was “from the old bridge into Greenville,” he said.

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