HED: Committee begins task of prioritizing Phase III projects

CATEGORY: Tupelo Stories

AUTHOR: MARTY

HED: Committee begins task of prioritizing Phase III projects

By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

The widening of McCullough Boulevard in Tupelo to five lanes from the Natchez Trace Parkway to U.S. Highway 78 should take priority in a third phase of the city’s Major Thoroughfare Program, according to the consensus of a group studying traffic needs.

A Phase III study committee made up of city department heads and members of the Oversight Committee that keeps tabs on the thoroughfare program took the first steps Thursday toward prioritizing street projects. The projects would be included in the next five-year phase of the program.

Phase II of the program expires next year and voters will be asked whether to continue a special 10-mill tax that finances the projects specifically earmarked in the referendum.

Thursday, the Phase III study committee attempted to prioritize those projects with the consensus being that McCullough Boulevard should be the first project undertaken in the next phase. Committee members said traffic and accidents have increased along the stretch making the need for a middle turn lane on the existing four-lane road a priority.

Other Phase III proposed projects and their priority by order as decided by the study committee Thursday are:

– Eason Boulevard from Town Creek to Briar Ridge Road

– Cliff Gookin Boulevard from Green Street to Gloster Street

– Cliff Gookin Boulevard from Gloster Street to Lawndale Drive

– Coley Road from Main Street to Chesterville Road

– Coley Road from Chesterville Road to Jackson Street

– Coley Road from Jackson Street to McCullough Boulevard

– Cliff Gookin Boulevard from Thomas Street to the Natchez Trace Parkway

– Cliff Gookin Boulevard from the Natchez Trace Parkway to Main Street

– Cliff Gookin Boulevard from Lawndale Drive to Thomas Street

A final, unfinished project from Phase II, the widening of West Main Street from Thomas Street to the Natchez Trace Parkway could be added to the list of priorities although city officials still hold out hope that the work can be completed in the current Phase II if funds allow.

Study committee members said they would present the prioritized list of Phase III projects to the full Oversight Committee at its July meeting for discussion.

Early estimates of the costs of doing all of the projects is about $19 million, including about $600,000 to widen a bridge on Coley Road. However, if the state agrees to pitch in on a portion of the McCullough Boulevard work the cost of that project could drop by as much as $1 million, officials said.

The 10 mills for the thoroughfare program currently brings in about $2.6 million a year but the city won’t know how much the tax will bring in under a new property reassessment until the county releases new valuation estimates later.

There also is some question as to whether the program can continue to assess 10 mills since state law prohibits most tax revenues from rising more than 10 percent per year. Early estimates of the new property assessments indicate property values have risen an average of 30 percent.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 in a property’s assessed valuation.