By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Sidewalks soon will line the streets around Pierce Street Elementary and Tupelo Middle schools thanks to a $390,000 grant.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation awarded Tupelo the grant from its Safe Routes to School program. It’s the first time the city won the grant, but not the first time it had applied, said Mayor Jack Reed Jr.
“I’m thrilled,” Reed said. “It will absolutely be part of the revitalization effort. There is a lot of synergy in that part of town and this will absolutely be an important part of it. Sidewalks are such an important part of a livable and healthy community.”
City and school officials had collaborated on the grant application and will continue working together throughout the project’s implementation.
It could take up to a year before the sidewalks actually appear. They first must go through a design process, plan reviews and potential rights-of-way acquisition, all of which takes time, said Cookie Leffler, MDOT’s Safe Routes coordinator.
About two dozen communities across the state have won grant money since the program began six years ago.
The sidewalks tie into the city’s overall plan to improve quality of life and encourage more residents to walk. It’s also part of Tupelo’s 2025 comprehensive plan and its Walking and Biking Master Plan, both of which call for more infrastructure promoting non-vehicular travel.
Currently, Tupelo has one bike path and several scattered pockets of sidewalks. But it lacks an interconnected system where non-motorists can travel safely to school, work, shopping or doctor’s appointments.
Short-term recommendations in the plans call for sidewalks and bike lanes near schools, major employment destinations and other frequently used public locations like downtown and the North Mississippi Medical Center campus.
Long-range plans include linking other Tupelo neighborhoods with sidewalks and bike lanes, and making Main and Gloster streets more accessible.
The city is expected to release more details about the sidewalk project in the coming weeks.