By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – State transportation officials say their recent recommendation to expand downtown walking and bicycling paths came from a belief that the longer routes would be more usable.
Early proposals to make downtown more appealing to pedestrians and cyclists called for bike lanes, in addition to the current sidewalks, to be added on Main Street from Front to Green streets.
Mississippi Department of Transportation officials last week suggested expanding the bike and pedestrian path to the Elvis Presley Birthplace.
“We felt like tying it into existing landmarks would make it more functional once it was complete,” said Travis Wampler, MDOT’s District 1 local public agency engineer. “Most people aren’t going to bike three blocks. They want to go from one place to another.”
The recommendation came after the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association and the Community Development Foundation informally asked MDOT for feedback about Main Street’s master plan, which focuses on creating a new look for a three-block stretch of downtown by adding pedestrian and cyclist amenities, in addition to “traffic calming” measures.
Wampler and Allyson Johnson, MDOT’s transportation enhancement coordinator, offered their ideas.
“The downtown streetscape in and of itself is a very good project,” Johnson said.
But, she added, it’s logical for a bike trail to be longer than three blocks.
The Main Street Association is seeking federal money to fund the project. The desired grant would require a 20 percent match from the local community.
Fred Pitts, City Council president, said last week that the city is studying the cost of the expanded project before deciding whether to pursue the funding.
MDOT then will decide whether to approve the application and pass it along to the Federal Highway Administration for review.
“At this point, we don’t know exactly how much the project is going to cost or how much Federal Highways would award, if any,” Wampler said.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.