By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Few scenarios would convince Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton to close the city’s busiest intersection on a weekend with three public events and thousands of anticipated visitors.
Cutting down on blown tires, needed front-end alignments and resulting foul moods fits into that small category.
Driving east on Main Street across railroad tracks at Crosstown has been a sore subject for many Tupelo residents for at least 18 months. It caused Ward 6 City Council member Mike Bryan to vent in all capital letters on Facebook two weeks ago that it was the biggest quality of life issue in Tupelo.
“As an elected official for the city of Tupelo, I have for months and months heard from citizens concerning the deplorable (and unsafe) conditions of the RR crossing at cross town,” Bryan posted to his social media network friends.
Apparently, officials with BNSF Railway learned of Tupelo’s frustrations with the bumpy railroad crossing since they reached out to Shelton and other city leaders for permission to complete a “total rehabilitation project” this weekend.
Funded by BNSF Railway, construction crews will upgrade 220 feet of railroad track, removing rotten wood and loosened rails. As a result, concrete will keep train rails firmly in place.
Shelton said he knew of high-traffic events this weekend with the NOleput festival downtown, the Color Vibe 5K run and a circus at the BancorpSouth Arena. However, railroad officials suggested this weekend for upgrades.
“We thought it would be better to put up with the traffic headache this weekend than risk another year of this continuing,” Shelton said.
BNSF public affairs director Joe Faust said Tupelo residents driving through Crosstown next week will appreciate the difference.
“Normally those types of crossings are a little smoother for auto traffic,” Faust said. “We believe this was a good time for us to work with the city.”