HED: Compromise offers rejected on Blair Street traffic
By Marty Russell
A special meeting of Tupelo’s Traffic Committee Friday failed to resolve the controversy over truck traffic on residential Blair Street and committee members said it is now up to the city council to decide if any action will be taken to restrict such traffic.
Joe Benefield, the city’s chief operations officer, chaired Friday’s meeting and said the Traffic Committee had exhausted its jurisdiction over the matter and it was now a policy matter to be decided by the city council.
“The goal of this meeting was to see if we could find any common ground,” Benefield told the gathering attended by about 10 Blair Street residents and representatives of the Frisco-Reed Industrial Park where much of the truck traffic originates.
“It is not to determine whether truck traffic can be allowed on Blair Street,” he said. “My interpretation of the manual (on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) is that truck traffic can be allowed on Blair Street. (The Traffic Committee) should not have to recommend that to the council. That should be a policy decision” by the council.
The businesses in the industrial park offered first one and then a second compromise offer as Friday’s meeting progressed but Blair Street residents stood firm on their demand that all truck traffic be prohibited.
The industries say Blair Street is the most cost and time efficient route for their trucks and that forcing them to use Main Street and Crosstown instead would result in thousands of dollars in additional fuel costs as well as lost time.
Blair Street residents counter that the Crosstown route only adds a minute or two to the travel time and that that time could be further reduced by adding a left turn signal at Industrial Road and Main Street. They say as many as 130 trucks use the residential street each day creating safety concerns for children who play along it.
The industries suggested a compromise by offering to restrict all gravel trucks servicing two concrete plants in the industrial park from using Blair Street. B&B Concrete President David Brevard said that would reduce about 35 percent to 40 percent of his company’s traffic on Blair Street as well as an equal amount of Tupelo Concrete Products’ traffic.
Spence Kellum, a spokesman for the Blair Street residents, questioned that figure saying the reduction would actually be closer to 20 or 25 percent.
Brevard said businesses in the industrial park would also consider restricting more truck traffic on Blair Street if the city would commit to extending Industrial Road to Jackson Street. Extending the street was in the city’s original Major Thoroughfare Plan but funds ran out before it could be built.
The project is not included in Phase II of the thoroughfare plan but Benefield said the work could be done by city crews with general fund monies if the city council so decided.
After Blair Street residents declined the first compromise offered by the industrial park tenants, the business representatives made another offer that would have cut 18-wheel truck traffic in half on Blair Street by allowing loaded trucks headed out of the Industrial Park to use the street eastbound but routing returning, empty trucks through Crosstown.
The compromise would have applied only to 18-wheel vehicles and not smaller trucks such as the concrete trucks that use Blair Street.
But residents also declined that offer.
“I don’t think we’ve accomplished our goal,” Benefield said when it was evident a compromise could not be reached between the two sides. “My recommendation is that we take these minutes and send them to the city council and let this decision be a policy decision of the city council.”
Ward 4 Councilman Steve Mayhorn, in whose ward Blair Street is located, said after the meeting that he would ask the council to consider accepting the compromises offered by the industries on behalf of the residents and also request that the city take steps to extend Industrial to Jackson Street.
But he admitted he did not hold much hope that the city would reject the Traffic Committee’s earlier recommendation that the truck traffic be allowed to continue.
Kellum said residents would not give up the fight.
“We will be at the council meeting,” he said.