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Business owners meet to discuss MDOT 16th Avenue project

LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) – Business owners along 16th Avenue in Laurel met tonight to discuss how the Mississippi Department of Transportation could potentially affect businesses.

Many business owners fear the thought of having to close due to this possibility.

“We have business owners who have businesses on 16th Ave who state to me publicly and have stated in the newspaper publicly that their businesses on Highway 49 saw a 40 percent reduction in income and in customers,” 16th Avenue Committee Spokesperson Ron Swindall said. “When you have that much of a reduction and in income and in customers, that is something that is devastating to businesses.”

The growing concern has led business owners to start petitions, talk to local officials and even seek legal consultation.

However, the potential plan by MDOT is to implement pavement medians to help motorists turn safely. Swindall added,

“It’s more difficult to get through because there’s barriers between turning, and it’s easier instead of going all the way down and turning around where MDOT has designed for turnarounds to work, they’re going to go some back roads where residential homes are,” said Swindall.

MDOT held a public hearing for citizens to voice their suggestions and concerns; however, several businesses want MDOT to go back to the drawing board.

In fact, Swindall says,

“The project as it stands needs to be completely abandoned, and MDOT, instead of spending millions of dollars on a project we don’t need, by the way, millions of dollars of debt that we don’t need to be spending on this project, they need to be spending $100,000 or so studying what else can be done,” Swindell says.

Although the project specifically affects businesses along 16th Avenue, several business owners feel the need to join in on the fight to prevent the project from happening.

“My business is not on 16th Ave., it’s downtown Laurel, but when one business owner is affected, therefore that’s why we’re all coming together as a team to stand hand to hand to show our support,” says Marian Allen, the director at the Laurel-Jones County Black History Museum and Arts.

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