The final phase of Interstate 269, a 60-mile half-loop connecting Interstate 55 and Interstate 40, opened in DeSoto County, Mississippi late last week. The project is expected to allow for easier freight movement in the area, especially for trucks moving eastbound from northern Mississippi.
The half-loop runs from Hernando, Mississippi to Millington, Tennessee, allowing travelers to bypass Memphis, Tennessee and the traffic congestion that often accompanies it. The $640 million project started in 2011, according to Mississippi Department of Transportation.
“We are very excited about it. We are looking forward to our eastbound freight coming out of Mississippi going toward the Carolinas, Nashville and Knoxville being able to bypass the congestion in Memphis where I-40 and I-55 meet,” Graham Trucking Director of Recruiting and Sales Terry Jobe said. “We feel like we’re going to save about an hour of transit time each way getting to our eastbound locations. Of course that’s huge for drivers. It’s a driver’s dream in North Mississippi with all the congestion from the casinos over in Tunica County and the Memphis proper traffic.”
Graham Trucking is a small, family-owned operation based out of Nesbit, Mississippi. Jobe said the company has been in business for 20 years and has grown from just over 20 trucks to nearly 50 trucks in the past year alone.
“We’ve had a very low driver turnover rate, and I think it’s due to the size that we are and the freight that we can grab without having to take a load to move a driver just for productivity’s sake,” he said.
With hours of service regulations putting a strain on carriers across the nation, the potential for saved time is a relief for Jobe.
“The supply chain, I think, has really taken a hit from the hours of service. I think your Fortune 500 companies have had their flow disrupted. I don’t think it is so much the hours of service as it is the way the shippers and receivers are used to doing business, where they can hold a driver as long as they wanted and the driver could get where they needed to be legally,” he said. “At this point in time, when that clock starts, the clock starts. If they’re going to hold you all day, it is going to be a huge deal and picking up a few hours on a trip to Nashville back-and-forth from Memphis is going to be a huge gain for the trucking company and the customer.”
Jobe described the completion of I-269 as “Christmas in October” for his drivers, but he also noted that the corridor will bring economic development, like health services and grocery stores, to those living in the area.
“Interstate 269 represents a huge asset for the region,” Mississippi Northern Transportation District Commissioner Mike Tagert said. “The quality of our infrastructure impacts our quality of life and factors into economic development. Increased mobility, connectivity and commerce will lead to more investment and more jobs in the region.”
I-269 is part of the larger Interstate 69 corridor, a proposed 1,600 mile project connecting Canada and Mexico.