Phase 2 of Oxford Pathways upgrade behind schedule

OXFORD – Pathways Commissioners hope bike and pedestrian enhancements originally planned for 2008 will be done in 2010.
Nearly $2 million in funding has been secured for Phase 2 of the city’s pioneering Pathways Program, but the project remains delayed by red tape.
“I think it’s interesting that last year we thought the BMX trails (at FNC Park) would be open in April and that Phase 2 would be bid and contracted by now,” Chairman Mike Mossing said. “I think it’s basically a breakdown between (Mississippi Department of Transportation) and local officials. The latest word is that it’s going to be January.”
Mossing, a daily bicycle commuter, is frustrated at delaying improvements, including new bike lanes to connect city parks and schools. A pedestrian bridge over Mississippi Highway 6 at Old Taylor Road would open bike and foot commutes for potentially thousands of University of Mississippi students.
“It seems that this is systemic with MDOT,” Mossing said. “I understand that out of $55 million for projects they got like this last year they’ve only spent $10 million.” In MDOT’s defense, he added that “the feds have changed the procedure in midstream.”

Planning ahead
While pushing Phase 2, commissioners also have their sights on other improvements. Becky Moreton said traffic islands are a high priority to help pedestrians cross busy intersections safely. Jeff Hallam has helped promote a project to encourage children to walk or bike to school.
“The ‘Safe Routes to School’ curriculum is out to our teachers,” he said. “They should begin implementing that in January.”
The Pathways Commission Web site has also offered a 40-item, Phase-3 wish list for residents to prioritize. Highest-rated items so far include bike lanes from the University of Mississippi to Walmart, accessibility for all walking surfaces around the Oxford Square and a stronger push for the Old Taylor Road pedestrian bridge and new roundabouts for its motorized counterpart.

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

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal