Traffic along Interstate 269, the nation's newest super highway, is brisk since its opening on Oct. 26 with the exact count still being tabulated, according to Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert in an interview with the DeSoto Times-Tribune on Monday.
"We have plans to count the traffic and we may have counters in place," Tagert said. "I will check on that."
Tagert said I-269 was constructed with safety in mind, using the latest technology to reduce hydroplaning and pooling of water on the road surface.
"It's called an open-graded friction course," added Tagert. "We have utilized that newly-developed form of asphalt. We try to do everything within Godly reason to minimize risk."
The safety feature in the road surface cost a little more but Tagert said the safety of the traveling public is worth it.
"It reduces splash and improves visibility," Tagert said. "With the kind of volume in traffic that's expected, it's so important to use that asphalt. I know it costs a little more."
In his first interview on the tragic bus accident on Nov. 14 along I-269 which left two people dead and more than 44 people injured, Tagert said he is awaiting a state investigation and a federal investigation into the crash. Investigations into the crash are being conducted by the Mississippi Highway Patrol and federal transportation officials.
"I do not know the status of those investigations," Tagert said.
Tagert did say indications are there was no correlation whatsoever between icy conditions which are often found on bridges during inclement weather and the road surface along I-269.
"We monitor those on a regular basis," said Tagert, referring to icy conditions on bridges and overpasses. "We issued a weather warning in advance as well as one by the local Sheriff's Department."
There is also no correlation between the timing of the accident and the recent opening of the roadway, according to Tagert.
Tagert said while the investigations are still yet to be concluded, there is an indication that operator error could have been a factor in the accident.
"I suspect we'll find there was operator error and speed," Tagert said on Monday.
Tagert said he was unaware of any dips or low places in the pavement along I-269 but urged the traveling public to contact him or MDOT with any concerns.
"I'm not aware of any," Tagert said. "With a project of that scope and size you will always find things that need attention. You will always find a drop in the sub compaction of the foundation."
Tagert said to his knowledge any correction of a drop in the sub compaction of the pavement was made before the highway was opened to the traveling public.
Tagert said the Highway Patrol and federal authorities are in charge of the investigations.
"They just finished the portion with what they did with the bus the day after Thanksgiving," said Joey Miller, Public Information Officer for Troop E of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, headquartered in Batesville. Miller was referring to a forensic examination of the crashed bus. An accident reconstruction has already taken place, according to Miller.