Oxford at risk of losing pathways funding

OXFORD – Oxford’s award-winning bike and pedestrian enhancements could lose a $2.4 million grant if state and local officials cannot satisfy a Sept. 30 deadline.
According to Pathways Commission chairman Mike Mossing, if Phase 2 of the bike-pedestrian construction project isn’t ready for bid by that date, the appropriation of Transportation Enhancement funds will revert to other uses.
“There was an application in 2006 and an award in 2007 that would build 14 miles of bike routes around Oxford,” he said.
Because planning is behind schedule, threatened work includes bike lanes connecting several schools and parks in Oxford as well as a bike-pedestrian bridge for Old Taylor Road, a major student commuter route, over U.S. Highway 278.
If costs allow, the grant and its $480,000 local match also would build trails and a BMX complex at FNC Park.
Dreher Harris, assistant district engineer with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, is the construction engineer for the project. He said the city likely will keep the funding.
“I don’t think the Sept. 30 deadline will be met, but I think the planning will be sufficiently progressed,” Harris said. He explained that “obligation of funds” status is awarded if the Federal Highway Administration agrees sufficient progress has been made on a given project.
“You can encumber the funds without actually having spent them,” Harris said.
Oxford City Engineer Bart Robinson said MDOT has been absorbed with lining up projects for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding and has put this project on a back burner.
“The real story here is that we stand the potential to lose a $2.8 million project,” he said.
Sen. Thad Cochran’s staff has been enlisted to help ensure the funds’ survival, and staffer Mindy Maxwell in Oxford said she is trying to determine if the money can be rescinded.

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio