Biking to the birthplace? Perhaps

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – If you want to walk or bike from downtown Tupelo to the Elvis Presley Birthplace, you may have a lane of your own in the future.
The city is studying the cost of adding bike and pedestrian amenities for the approximately one-mile stretch along Main Street, Veterans Boulevard and Reese Street.
The study comes after the state Department of Transportation suggested that sidewalks and bike lanes be included in an expanded Main Street Master Plan, which is geared at making downtown Tupelo more appealing to pedestrians and cyclists.
MDOT officials were unavailable to explain their reasoning Tuesday.
Debbie Brangenberg, executive director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, cited the potential tie-in for tourism because it would create a path from Tupelo Hardware to the birthplace – two extremely popular destinations for international tourists who are used to walking or biking.
Originally, Main Street’s master plan focused on a three-block stretch of Main Street and called for additional landscaping, pedestrian amenities, synchronized traffic signals and the restriping of a section of Main Street to two lanes, plus a center turn lane and bike lanes.
The downtown-only part of the project is estimated to cost $500,000 to $600,000, according to City Council President Fred Pitts. The ballpark budget of the expanded plan is $1 million to $1.5 million, according to Jon Milstead, the planning director with the Community Development Foundation.
“Right now, it’s strictly a pipe dream,” Pitts said.
Main Street is seeking federal funds through MDOT to pay for the project. The desired grants would provide 80 percent of the funds and the remaining 20 percent would have to be provided locally.
At a council work session Tuesday, Pitts said the city’s in-house engineers will do the preliminary cost-estimate studies.
Then, the council will decide whether it wants to approve a memorandum of understanding to MDOT requesting the funds for the project.
“If the money is approved, then we come up with a plan and then we have to approve it,” Pitts said.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.