By Joe Rutherford
Two major Northeast Mississippi transportation developments become accessible this week – the long-anticipated opening of new Highway 6/U.S. 278 and part of the Northern Loop project of the Tupelo Major Thoroughfare Program.
The 10-mile Highway 6 section will open at 11 a.m. today, and Barnes Crossing Road West – the Northern Loop – will open on Friday after a celebratory ribbon-cutting on the new $7.5 million bridge crossing the Natchez Trace Parkway.
The public event, accessible from either North Gloster Street or from Mount Vernon Road, will open the route to traffic as far as a traffic signal at the Mount Vernon interchange. Barnes Crossing Road West from Mount Vernon to U.S. Highway 78 near Belden will open in September after a new $10.5 million bridge crossing U.S. 78 is completed.
“We believe this will have a tremendous impact on … Tupelo and the experience both residents and visitors have in accessing developing areas of the community,” said Greg Pirkle, Tupelo Major Thoroughfare Committee chairman, in a prepared statement.
Pirkle has overseen more than $60 million in investment on infrastructure as chairman of the committee.
Highway 6/U.S. 278 opens today from U.S. 45 in Tupelo to Highway 342 in Pontotoc County, the final link in the four-lane artery connecting to I-55 in Batesville via Pontotoc and Oxford. A July 15 ribbon-cutting for Highway 6 went ahead as scheduled even though rainy weather forced construction completion delays on the final link.
MDOT Tupelo District Engineer Mark Holley said at Wednesday the final striping work was in process, with the opening scheduled today at 11 a.m., without fanfare.
Holley indicated the Mississippi Highway Patrol begins formal patrols when the new highway opens.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said the Barnes Crossing West opening is an “important milestone.”
Shelton praised Pirkle, Mississippi Department of Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, legislative leaders and the Major Thoroughfare Committee for their work.
The program is a voter-approved special property tax that’s renewable every five years by referendum approval.