Feds pledge $2.3 million to Tupelo for Main St.

TUPELO – The proposed downtown Tupelo enhancement project, which includes adding a bike trail to Elvis’ birthplace and reducing the number lanes on part of Main Street, has received $2.3 million in federal funding.
The money was announced Wednesday and comes from Federal Transportation Enhancement funds that are funneled through the state Department of Transportation.
The City Council has not approved the project, but in July members committed to provide the required 20 percent match – about $600,000 – to receive the federal grant. At the time, members said some of the money will be offset by services the city can do itself.
The entire $2.9 million project calls for a revamp of the look and traffic flow in downtown Tupelo.
The proposed project, which the City Council must vote on before it can be implemented, includes additional landscaping, pedestrian amenities, traffic signal synchronization and the restriping of a three-block section of Main Street to be two lanes, with a center turn lane, bike lanes and parallel parking.
The project, which started about five years ago, has expanded every year, with the most recent expansion being the addition of the bike and pedestrian paths to the Elvis Presley Birthplace – which was a recommendation from MDOT.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said one of his visions is to extend the city’s center to the Elvis Presley Birthplace.
“This will be one of the most important construction projects in the history of Tupelo,” Reed said in a press release from MDOT.
Debbie Brangenberg, executive director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, said the next step is to meet with the proper city and state officials to discuss the project.
Meanwhile, she said, Main Street is going to continue its traffic analysis for the downtown section of Main Street. The group is working with Tennessee-based RPM Transportation Consultants on the study.
Greg Pirkle, chairman of the Major Thoroughfare Committee, said he thinks the project is a “positive” for east Tupelo residents and for tourists, but his group is interested to hear what comes out of the traffic analysis.
His committee hopes to begin five-laning Main Street next year, starting at the U.S. Highway 45 overpass and moving east.
He said that while the committee doesn’t have any control over the downtown section of Main Street, members have encouraged the downtown group to consider traffic flow and traffic capacity.
Main Street members at several board meetings have said the traffic will be controlled by slowing it down through fewer lanes and the synchronization of the traffic lights.
If everything stays on schedule, Brangenberg said, Main Street hopes to do a test run of the restructured traffic lanes downtown before presenting a final plan to the council to vote on.

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.

Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal