South side challenge: Children's expansion leads to short-term navigation hassles
Published on Monday, March 26, 2018
By: Bruce Coleman
As construction of the $180 million Children’s of Mississippi expansion hits its stride, navigation on the south side of the University of Mississippi’s main Jackson campus is about to be fundamentally changed.
This spring, the Woodrow Wilson Drive entrance to the Medical Center, South University Drive and the southern portion of Peachtree Street will close, causing traffic around Batson Children’s Hospital, the Winfred L. Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants, Methodist Rehabilitation Center and the University Physicians Pavilion to become more challenging.
The campus improvements resulting from construction of the Children’s of Mississippi expansion, scheduled to open by fall 2020, will be well worth the short-term inconvenience, according to Dr. Jonathan Wilson, chief administrative officer.
“From a long-term perspective, the closing of the Woodrow Wilson entrance and the new traffic pattern in the area will be a period of growing pains,” Wilson acknowledged. “Change is never easy. But the end result will make it all worthwhile.”
Patrick Casey, executive director of planning, design and construction, said Medical Center employees and students should avoid driving through the area, if possible.
“When the Woodrow Wilson entrance closes, drivers will have to navigate a circuitous route to access the southern portion of the UMMC campus,” Casey said. “For the balance of the Children’s Hospital expansion construction, the less traffic we have through the area, the better.”
Despite the traffic flow changes, Wilson said shuttle bus service to the area will be largely unaffected.
“The shuttle bus route improvements that were implemented Feb. 27 took into account the new traffic pattern from the Children’s expansion project,” he said. “So our riders will not see a significant change in the routes.”
The first phase of the altered traffic pattern is scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 31. A new road is being cut through the old Methodist Rehabilitation Center parking lot to connect Peachtree Street to East University Drive. This “New Entrance Drive” will become a permanent road once construction of the Children’s of Mississippi expansion is completed.
Peachtree Street will be narrowed to one lane from South University Drive to the “New Entrance Drive” location; however, the street will still support two-way traffic. A flagman will be on site to keep traffic flowing in both directions.
“New Entrance Drive” is scheduled to be completed by Tuesday, May 15, weather permitting. When it opens, the portion of Peachtree Street south of “New Entrance Drive” will be closed permanently. Simultaneously, South University Drive will be closed as well.
At that point, individuals who need to access Batson Children’s Hospital should take the North State Street entrance to campus closest to Parking Garage B, park in that garage, enter the Winfred L. Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants and proceed to the children’s hospital. Individuals who need to access the University Physicians Pavilion or the Methodist Rehabilitation Center should turn onto East University Drive at the Lakeland Drive entrance to campus and follow East University Drive to their destinations.
This arrangement is expected to last for approximately two years until the Children’s of Mississippi expansion’s official opening by fall 2020. At that time, South University Drive will reopen, and a brand new circle drive for Children’s of Mississippi will welcome motorists at the Woodrow Wilson entrance to UMMC. Vehicles leaving UMMC via this entrance will be allowed to turn either left or right onto Woodrow Wilson Avenue, via a new, signal-controlled intersection.
Wilson said when construction of the Children’s of Mississippi expansion is ultimately completed, the southern portion of the Medical Center campus should be one of the most attractive and inviting places at UMMC.
“It’ll be much easier for our patients to come in and access the health care zone of campus,” Wilson said. “We just first need to get through these growing pains of the improvement.”