Traffic lights, lanes to see changes in downtown Tupelo

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The traffic lights in downtown Tupelo will be synchronized in the upcoming weeks as part of a traffic flow test that includes fewer travel lanes.
The Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association hopes to begin testing a three-lane version of Main Street by Valentine’s Day.
Main Street currently is four lanes with on-street parking in downtown and in Fairpark. The association started reviewing traffic patterns a few years ago in an effort to get traffic to slow down to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
The test was proposed at a City Council work session Monday. The City Council previously voted to move forward with the project but has not approved a specific plan.
Council members have said any street changes downtown must be tested before they are made permanent. The test will cost about $20,000 and will come from money in the city’s capital projects fund.
The money is part of about $80,000 that was set aside several years ago to enhance downtown’s streetscape.
For the test, which Main Street Executive Director Debbie Brangenberg stressed is temporary, Main Street from Green Street to Elizabeth Street will be restriped with tape for six weeks.
The tape will be used to designate one lane of traffic in each direction, along with a center turn lane. The long-term plan calls for bike lanes from Green Street to the Elvis Presley Birthplace. The bike lanes will not be tested or taped in the experiment in February.
“Really, what you are going to wind up having is it’s going to be striped the way it winds up functioning right now,” Brangenberg said.
People who routinely drive through downtown travel in the right lane, she said, to avoid cars that are waiting to turn left and are blocking the lane.
The Fairpark section of Main Street currently has medians in the center of the road. Brangenberg said the medians won’t be changed. Instead, the road will keep the turning lanes and add on-street parking to the north side of the street.
The traffic lights also will be synchronized as part of the test. Brangenberg said they will be timed to get the maximum efficiency for traffic flow. Consultants will compare drive times during the test to see if the synchronized traffic lights and the proposed lane configuration are an improvement from the current situation.
“Even though we may have slowed the traffic,” Brangenberg said, “have we improved the efficiency of the traffic?”

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1579 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.