Thoroughfare? Survey finds many don't know and don't care

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – It’s widened their roads and raised their property taxes for the past 20 years, but the Major Thoroughfare Program doesn’t ring a bell for many Tupelo residents.
When asked by the Daily Journal about where the program should focus its next $20 million, most people furrowed their brows and said, “What’s the Major Thoroughfare Program?”
For those in the dark, it’s a taxpayer-funded initiative, unique to Tupelo, that improves the busiest streets to accommodate more vehicles and ease traffic congestion. Voters decide every five years whether to renew the program, which adds a 10-mill property tax to every household to fund its projects.
Since its inception, the program has widened Main and Gloster streets, as well as Coley Road and Eason and Cliff Gookin Boulevard. It’s also building the new northern loop road through west Tupelo and has a slew of new projects to tackle if voters say yea in May.
But the new project proposals aren’t set in stone, and some even suggested diverting a portion of the $20 million raised during the five-year phase to non-thoroughfare projects.
City officials and Major Thoroughfare committee members have their views on the topic, but the Daily Journal wanted to see what workaday residents thought. So a reporter hit the streets Wednesday and encountered an array of strange looks and more than a few shrugs.
The general consensus of those who, after hearing an explanation of the MTP, agreed to respond was that the city should continue the program as usual.
Some, like Jermaine Shannon and Nicole Marks, said they wish it would fix congestion at Crosstown by rerouting the train. But a Mississippi Department of Transportation study on Tupelo’s train traffic already seeks to fix that problem, and the city still awaits final study results.
Marks also said West Jackson Street needs improving; the MTP identified that road for work in the next phase, but gave it low priority.
And both she and Desiray Young said they want to see more sidewalks built.
“I like to walk,” Young said, “but instead of walking in the park all the time, it’d be nice to walk through the city.”
Barbara Fleishhaker also wants the Major Thoroughfare Program to spend money on sidewalks and bike lanes. Fleishhaker was among the few individuals familiar with the program, and she said she supports diverting program funds toward non-thoroughfare projects like neighborhood revitalization or fixing smaller, residential streets.
Also in the know was Terry Carr, who said widening South Gloster and South Thomas Street to the new Highway 6 interchange should top the list of MTP priorities.
He brushed aside talk about more road improvements around the Barnes Crossing shopping district.
“God knows they need more roads to and from the mall, but the only time it really gets terrible is the holidays,” he said. “Do you really want to spend all that money for (traffic congestion that happens) just once a year?”

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.