Proposed Senatobia roundabout may force businesses to close

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SENATOBIA, Miss. -— Plans to put a roundabout in Senatobia, Mississippi are making one property owner feel like he’s being thrown around.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation is planning the new $9 million interchange at U.S. 51 and Main Street, saying it would fix frequent traffic congestion on Highway 51, between off-set sections of Main Street.

But MDOT says it will need to take four properties by eminent domain in order for the road project to happen, forcing businesses to close. One of those is a used car lot that belongs to Scott Massey.

“It’s a lose-lose for me,” Massey said. “I never saw this coming, that someone could just take it.”

Eminent domain is a process where the government acquires land it needs by paying the property owner what’s supposed to be fair market value.

“Oh, you won’t get what it’s worth. No, you never will. You never will,” Massey says.

Convinced he won’t be compensated fairly, Massey doesn’t want to lose land right off Highway 51 in the middle of town.

“I can’t acquire a piece of property anywhere to replace that,” he said.

A map of the proposed project shows the existing roads in green, with the proposed new roads and roundabout in purple at U.S. 51 and Main Street.

The area currently operates as two three-way stops. Officials say a free-flowing circle where drivers yield to vehicles on the inside would open things up.

Senatobians we talked with are split.

“This would be a better deal,” one man told us.

“I really don’t think it’s going to work here,” one woman said.

MDOT wants to break ground in 2021 and says this traffic issue needs to be addressed sooner than later.

“I went to school in this area. Twenty, 30 years ago it was a headache and it’s gotten worse,” MDOT engineer Adam Johnson says.

As for the land MDOT needs to acquire, Johnson says, “If we’re going to continue driving and continue growing then those are issues that we’re going to have to deal with.”

MDOT says any land owner who doesn’t agree with the assessed value of their property can challenge the number in court.

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