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By Joe Rutherford
TUPELO – A project 11 years in the making came to fruition Friday when the first portion of the long-awaited Northern Loop opened to traffic.
Tupelo Major Thoroughfare Committee chairman Greg Pirkle thanked a long list of cooperating officials and agencies whose work led to the opening of the east link in the new West Barnes Crossing Road, a five-lane connector from North Gloster Street via Mount Vernon Road to U.S. 78 near Belden.
A remarkably cool morning for late July enhanced the Friday morning ribbon-cutting ceremony on the new bridge crossing the Natchez Trace Parkway, one of the spans crucial to making the new road fully functional.
Pirkle said work toward funding and completing the road began in 2003.
Initial work was followed by successful negotiations for right-of-way from multiple landowners through fields still under cultivation, crossing creeks and avoiding residential disruption.
A new traffic signal is installed at Mount Vernon and the new road has a sign naming it West Barnes Crossing Road.
Pirkle told about 100 people who stood on the bridge or sat in metal folding chairs that it was difficult deciding precisely how to get a direct connection to U.S. 78, which will become Interstate 22, possibly in a few months, depending on other connections.
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. said the U.S. Congress was able to provide a “little help” in one appropriations bill with discretionary funds.
Wicker said he was happy to help with a project that will encourage jobs and new opportunities in Northeast Mississippi.
Mayor Jason Shelton applauded what he termed a “team effort” involving many players in volunteer and government agency positions.
The $7.5 million bridge was the final piece of work on the east end of the new road. The western end of West Barnes Crossing is scheduled to open when a new bridge over U.S. 78 is completed in September.
By Joe Rutherford
TUPELO – The final segment of new Mississippi Highway 6/U.S. 278 opened at 11 a.m. Thursday, with traffic immediately flowing steadily on the four-lane route connecting U.S. 45 in south Tupelo with Interstate 55 at Batesville.
Meanwhile, in Tupelo City Hall, officials planned final details of today’s 9 a.m. opening of a significant portion of the Northern Loop road – Barnes Crossing West – between North Gloster and Mount Vernon Road.
The city said in a news release, “A major section of the much-anticipated Northern Loop/Barnes Crossing West road will open … following a ribbon-cutting on the Barnes Crossing West Bridge over the Natchez Trace scheduled for 9 a.m. … The official ribbon-cutting will be held on the west side of the bridge. Those wishing to attend may enter from either North Gloster or from Mount Vernon Road. Traffic will open in both directions after the ceremony.”
On Highway 6, as that new route likely will be known, heavy trucks immediately were seen hauling commercial goods as Mississippi Department of Transportation employees added final touches like new highway signs, roadside spraying and a check of safety striping.
Mississippi Highway Patrol officers, spaced at intervals along the 10-mile, $68 million route from Tupelo to Mississippi 342 in Pontotoc County (Black Zion), said traffic was normal with no problems reported.
By Joe Rutherford
Two major Northeast Mississippi transportation developments become accessible this week – the long-anticipated opening of new Highway 6/U.S. 278 and part of the Northern Loop project of the Tupelo Major Thoroughfare Program.
The 10-mile Highway 6 section will open at 11 a.m. today, and Barnes Crossing Road West – the Northern Loop – will open on Friday after a celebratory ribbon-cutting on the new $7.5 million bridge crossing the Natchez Trace Parkway.
The public event, accessible from either North Gloster Street or from Mount Vernon Road, will open the route to traffic as far as a traffic signal at the Mount Vernon interchange. Barnes Crossing Road West from Mount Vernon to U.S. Highway 78 near Belden will open in September after a new $10.5 million bridge crossing U.S. 78 is completed.
“We believe this will have a tremendous impact on … Tupelo and the experience both residents and visitors have in accessing developing areas of the community,” said Greg Pirkle, Tupelo Major Thoroughfare Committee chairman, in a prepared statement.
Pirkle has overseen more than $60 million in investment on infrastructure as chairman of the committee.
Highway 6/U.S. 278 opens today from U.S. 45 in Tupelo to Highway 342 in Pontotoc County, the final link in the four-lane artery connecting to I-55 in Batesville via Pontotoc and Oxford. A July 15 ribbon-cutting for Highway 6 went ahead as scheduled even though rainy weather forced construction completion delays on the final link.
MDOT Tupelo District Engineer Mark Holley said at Wednesday the final striping work was in process, with the opening scheduled today at 11 a.m., without fanfare.
Holley indicated the Mississippi Highway Patrol begins formal patrols when the new highway opens.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said the Barnes Crossing West opening is an “important milestone.”
Shelton praised Pirkle, Mississippi Department of Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, legislative leaders and the Major Thoroughfare Committee for their work.
The program is a voter-approved special property tax that’s renewable every five years by referendum approval.