Northern Loop OK, East Main roads delayed

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Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com A motorist passes under the construction crews as workers pour concrete and build forms for the new bridge over the Natchez Trace Parkway as part of the Major Thoroughfare Program.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com
A motorist passes under the construction crews as workers pour concrete and build forms for the new bridge over the Natchez Trace Parkway as part of the Major Thoroughfare Program.

By Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – A disagreement among lawyers keeps the second phase of the Major Thoroughfare Program’s East Main Street project from moving forward.

A property owner wants to give a slice of land to the city for the project, but his attorney and a lawyer for the Mississippi Department of Transportation have yet to agree on details.

Until this is resolved, the project will have to wait.

“The landowner says he’s willing work with the city,” said Greg Pirkle, chairman of the Major Thoroughfare Committee and also an attorney. “The city will talk to MDOT to make suggestions.”

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com This bridge is one of two being built on the Northern Loop, which includes about five miles of roadway.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com
This bridge is one of two being built on the Northern Loop, which includes about five miles of roadway.

Following the recent completion of phase one of the East Main Street project that added another lane, this next phase will widen bridges between Veterans Boulevard and the Fairpark downtown area. It also will add bike lanes and sidewalks from downtown to Elvis Presley’s birthplace.

Tupelo’s Major Thoroughfare Program has improved navigation through the city for more than 20 years. Started in 1991, the city initiative with an annual budget of about $4 million depends on taxpayer approval every five years to continue constructing improved streets, bridges and other infrastructure to ease travel in Tupelo with less congestion.

Beyond the legal discussion of the East Main Street project, Pirkle said the Northern Loop, the other remaining project in this five-year cycle of the MTP, remains on schedule.

A nearly $30 million project, the Northern Loop includes about five miles of roadway. While the street has been paved, work continues on two bridges there, one over the Natchez Trace Parkway and another over Highway 78, with an overall expected finish time of late 2014.

Construction of the bridge at the Natchez Trace began in February and is still scheduled to be complete in May.

“We hope to get asphalt on the bridge before winter months,” Pirkle said.

With the Natchez Trace bridge expected to be complete about six months before the Highway 78 bridge, the MPT committee is learning toward asking the city to open part of the Northern Loop at the Natchez Trace bridge to connect to Mount Vernon Road until the entire thoroughfare opens.

In January or February, public meetings will be held to gather public opinion to help propose priorities for the next five-year cycle, pending voter approval in 2016.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com