By Joe Rutherford
TUPELO – Mississippi Department of Transportation and Tupelo city officials said Monday they expect a $7.4 million bridge on what will be called West Barnes Crossing Road across the Natchez Trace to be completed no later than early August.
The bridge is part of a loop to connect North Gloster Street and U.S. Highway 78. A second bridge crossing U.S. 78 at Coley Road Extended is expected to be completed about six weeks after the Natchez Trace span.
MDOT district construction engineer Jamie McDonald said the West Barnes Crossing Road bridge work was delayed by rainy weather and that a two-month extension earlier had been granted to Key LLC of Madison, the main contractor.
McDonald said work remaining on the bridge at Milepost 265 includes finishing guard rails, detailed concrete work on the approaches to the bridge and installation of erosion-controlling seed and sod.
McDonald and Tupelo Chief Operations Officer Don Lewis said the city plans to open the new road from North Gloster to Mount Vernon Road when the bridge is completed.
A traffic control signal has been installed at the Mount Vernon/West Barnes Crossing intersection, but it is not yet operational. The final roadway segment from Mount Vernon to U.S. 78 near Belden will open when a new $10.5 million bridge crossing U.S. 78 is completed in late summer or early fall.
McDonald said the new road, part of the Tupelo Major Thoroughfare Program, is expected to relieve heavy traffic pressure on U.S. 78 that exits on North Gloster and McCullough Boulevard and at U.S. 45 going to the Barnes Crossing commercial district. The new road also will provide a more direct route for the fast-growing residential areas along and off Mount Vernon northwest of the city limits at Heardtown Road.
The traffic signals at Mount Vernon and West Barnes Crossing will be the first on what had been a heavily used mostly residential road into the unincorporated areas northwest of Tupelo.