Holly Springs Road groundbreaking

Officials throw dirt to signify the start of the Holly Springs Road construction project on Oct. 28 at the road's intersection with Dairy Barn Road east of Hernando. The two-year construction project will cost $35 million and involve raising the road level, reconstructing five bridges, and straightening curves in a 2.6 mile portion of the East-West corridor.  

A major East-West corridor through DeSoto County is about to welcome a new look over the next two years. 

A portion of Holly Springs Road, an area that has for years endured continual flooding problems, will be reconstructed with an infusion of $35 million in county, state, and federal money.

The project will include straightening of some dangerous curves in the 2.6 mile area and the rebuilding of five bridges, along with raising the road level to keep the roadway from being covered with high water during periods of rainfall.

A groundbreaking event for the construction project, which should start with the new year, was held where Dairy Barn Road meets Holly Springs Road east of Hernando on Oct. 28.

The ceremony brought back the memory of the late Supervisor Harvey Lee, who was among those who worked to get the funding for the road project, said Harvey Lee’s brother and current Supervisor Michael Lee. While work may not begin until the start of the new year, Monday’s groundbreaking held a special meaning because of Harvey Lee.

“Today is Harvey’s birthday,” Lee said, as he looked at those attending, including members of Harvey Lee’s family. “This is also the date that Harvey was killed tragically in a four-wheel accident. The reason we’re here at this particular time is to honor my brother and his family for being here and seeing this project through.”

Among the funding sources for the project was $13 million from a federal program called BUILD, or Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development. That is a grant program through the U.S. Department of Transportation, said Don Davis of the Federal Highway Administration’s Mississippi Division.

“To have a project selected for this is a huge accomplishment,” Davis said. “There were 91 projects for funding, so there was some tough competition. The good thing is Mississippi had two projects selected, this here on Holly Springs Road and another on State Route 19.”

Mississippi Department of Transportation Executive Director Melinda McGrath pointed out that a special session of the State Legislature passed an Emergency Road and Bridge Fund that will provide $7.5 million toward the Holly Springs Road project. McGrath complimented DeSoto County officials for their work in bringing the project close to reality.

“This project shows a lot of partnerships,” McGrath explained. “We work all across the state and DeSoto County has the best planning and best long-range plans for themselves, and they work to find ways to get it done.”

The county did issue $5 million in bonds as part of the funding, but it comes without a tax increase.

When finished, Holly Springs Road should solve a dangerous situation for drivers dealing with high water lapping up to and over the road.

Supervisor Bill Russell pointed out the county has been dealing with flooding in the area for quite some time.

“It’s been since 1836, that’s 183 years ago,” said Russell. “We’re not going to fix the floods, but we’re going to get the road up. Being the only East-West corridor south of I-269, for the southern part of the county, Holly Springs Road provides critical access to the exploding development in this area.”

Russell added that 18 school buses use the road daily at last count.

Supervisor Mark Gardner stated at least $25 million for the project came from federal and state money. He added it is an investment in a growing DeSoto County.

“We are frugal with your tax dollar, but it’s the growth of the county,” said Gardner. “The fact is we’re building 1,300 new houses in this county this year. Taxes from new buildings and houses all help pay for the growth, but if we don’t do projects like this, it will stifle that growth.”

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.