By NEMS Daily Journal
Almost 20 years have passed since Tupelo’s Major Thoroughfare Committee first discussed South Gloster Street as a priority for improvement, and despite some unexpected bumps in the road, less than a month remains before the $6.5 million five-laning project begins.
The construction will shape a new street for all practical purposes from Garfield Street to the grade-level intersection of South Gloster and the new Mississippi Highway 6 – the place where South Green Street historically crossed back into Gloster, extending to U.S. Highway 45.
That intersection, the Gloster upgrade, and a rerouting of South Green Street traffic will dramatically alter how that connection looks and works, but the completed projects will mean a new five-lane street in the south half of Tupelo, connecting to a new four-lane east-west highway linking Tupelo to Pontotoc, Oxford, Batesville and Interstate 55.
Most of all, the five-laning provides an opportunity for strengthening – some say reinvigorating – a portion of the former U.S. 45 that has been a largely commercial district since the end of World War II. South Gloster has taken some relocation hits in recent years, but it retains several major Tupelo businesses, including some auto dealerships and the main campus of North Mississippi Medical Center.
APAC of Mississippi was the lone bidder on the long-anticipated project. The bid of $6.5 million exceeded the original estimate by more than 50 percent, but city officials assessed the situation and decided to move forward rather than risk higher bids or other complications.
A majority of the funding will come from the taxpayer-supported Major Thoroughfare Program. Another $1.6 million will come from a federal grant, and about $675,000 will come from Mississippi Department of Transportation, which must approve every detail of plans.
Gloster Street is five-laned along most of its length, but the widening is necessary from Garfield southward to near the Tupelo-Verona city limits.
The enhanced South Gloster is expected to spur growth prospects. Growth and investment, however, are arguably more likely if the city and Community Development Foundation, working with the South Gloster Street Business Association membership, develop and implement a comprehensive concept for best adding new assets along the street. Hiring Mississippi State University’s “First Impressions” program for a modest $100, privately donated, will provide helpful input about what’s good and bad in what’s already on the street.
Almost all business districts go through challenges, and sometimes redevelopment creates more assets than what had been considered the best of times. That’s the goal for South Gloster.