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MS Prius Plant On Hold Despite Budding Infrastructure

Tue, 08/25/2009 - 4:34am

BLUE SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) — Infrastructure projects are continuing nearly on schedule around Toyota's northeast Mississippi plant, but the manufacturing facility is still on hold.

Mississippi Department of Transportation officials started the traffic light on a new frontage road Monday for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi. The three-mile road connects Mississippi Highway 9 near the Sherman exit off U.S. Highway 78.

Bill Jamieson, an MDOT engineer, said construction was completed a few days after the Aug. 12 deadline.

It's the most recent update in a $43 million road project that started after Toyota announced in February 2007 it would build a facility near Blue Springs. Mississippi agreed to build new roads and improve current ones to accommodate the projected increase in use around the plant.

The $1.3 billion plant was scheduled to begin making the Prius, the world's top-selling hybrid car, in late 2010. Toyota officials have said the company will wait until car buying in the United States improves before opening the facility.

MDOT officials, however, kept working. Toyota's delay gave the agency some slack in the tight construction period. MDOT expects to finish Toyota-related construction by the original Nov. 15, 2010, completion date, Jamieson said.

Mississippi officials have said the state lured the Toyota plant with a coalition of state and local officials working together and offering incentives.

The PUL Alliance, for example, made up of representatives from Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties, is constructing a railroad bridge and tracks above Mississippi Highways 78 and 178 for the plant.

Randy Kelley, director of the Three Rivers Planning and Development District in northeast Mississippi, said dirt work is nearly finished and the bridges are 95 percent completed.

Kelley said contracts have been let to lay the rail lines. Kelley expects the Three River's Toyota-related construction to be completed in the first part of 2010, if the weather cooperates.

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