Northern loop's road beds nearly done, but bridges still remain

By Emily Le Coz | Daily Journal

TUPELO – Construction could begin this year on both bridges along the city’s northern loop, paving the way for a 2013 opening.
For now, though, the 4.5-mile road connecting west Tupelo to the Barnes Crossing shopping district sits vacant – its completed sections unable to carry traffic because they dead-end where bridges should be.
“If land owners on either side begin development and the city approves it, we’ll open the road then,” said Greg Pirkle, chairman of the Major Thoroughfare Committee, which is building the road. “We don’t want people riding on it now, because it doesn’t go anywhere yet.”
City Planner Pat Falkner said no one has submitted plans to the city for development.
Launched nearly four years ago, the ambitious project was split into six parts: four road beds and two bridges. Two of the road beds now are complete – and the other two should be done by spring – with only the bridges remaining.
But construction of one bridge could start this summer, with the other coming along by fall, according to John White of Engineering Solutions Inc., the firm heading the project for the Major Thoroughfare Program.
Each bridge will take an estimated one year to complete.
“We hope by mid 2013 we’ll be able to open the road,” White said. “That’s the plan.”
White and the Major Thoroughfare Committee have worked with officials from the Mississippi Department of Transportation on the bridge that will cross U.S. 78 and the National Park Service on the bridge crossing the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Parkway officials recently approved a $6 million bridge design that still requires regional authorization. When that happens – likely this spring – the committee will seek bids for a contractor to carry out the project.
MDOT, however, will handle design and construction of the U.S. 78 bridge. White said that one could start later this year, possibly by fall.
In all, the project will cost more than $25 million, with a majority of funding coming from the Major Thoroughfare Program’s annual 10-mill property tax allocation. The rest comes from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which is paying for the bridge over U.S. 78.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com