South Gloster road widening plan in limbo

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Long-awaited plans to widen South Gloster Street could be delayed unless the Major Thoroughfare Committee shaves $2 million from another ongoing project.
A five-lane bridge over the Natchez Trace Parkway will cost an estimated $6 million, one-third more than originally budgeted. To pay for it, the committee must either delay the bridge until its next five-year phase or instead postpone another project.
Because the bridge is a crucial component in the northern loop, a new five-lane road connecting west Tupelo to the Barnes Crossing district, it’s unlikely to get bumped.
That leaves the one remaining project that committee members had hoped to accomplish during the current phase: Adding a middle turn lane to a large section of South Gloster Street, a roughly $2 million job.
“It’s a worst-case scenario,” said longtime committee member Chuck Imbler Jr.
The Major Thoroughfare Committee selects and manages large-scale road projects funded by a 10-mill property tax. City residents vote every five years on whether to continue the program into another phase.
Engineers are trying to redesign the bridge to maximize savings, but they must adhere to strict structural and aesthetic guidelines set by the Natchez Trace Parkway. They’ve already redesigned the span at least once to save $2 million. It’s unclear if they’ll be able to do it again.
Parkway officials can veto the changes if they don’t pass muster.
“So far, the Trace has been patient with us and has been willing to work with us and our modifications,” said committee chairman Greg Pirkle.
Pirkle blamed the rising price of materials for most of the inflated cost estimates.
If South Gloster gets pushed into Phase 5, it will take precedence over other road-improvement projects identified for that period. They include the widening of East Main Street, Eason Boulevard, Veterans Boulevard and South Thomas Street, as well as adding right-hand turn lanes along both sides of North Gloster Street near the mall.
Imbler said he doesn’t know which Phase 5 project would get bumped to make room for South Gloster.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.