By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The long-anticipated East Main Street widening project could start as early as next week, capping years of delay and skirting last-minute financial concerns.
City Council members on Tuesday voted 5-0 to award the $3.04 million contract to Tupelo-based Prairie Construction, which had submitted the lowest bid among the three companies vying for the job.
Councilmen Jonny Davis and Willie Jennings, of Wards 5 and 7, respectively, were absent.
Work likely will start within days, said Phillip Harbor, project manager for the Major Thoroughfare Program.
“We want to get started, Prairie wants to get started,” Harbor said. “As soon as we have the pre-construction meeting, we can issue a notice to proceed.”
The Major Thoroughfare Program funds large-scale road work with revenues collected from a 10-mill property tax that generates about $4 million annually. The program also recently initiated several other projects, prompting concerns from its oversight committee that road work bills could come in faster than tax revenues. But a last-minute deal with the council, approved earlier this month, will cover temporary shortfalls using money from Tupelo’s rainy day fund.
The East Main widening will take about one year to complete. Crews will expand the street to five lanes from Veterans Boulevard east to Willow Road, and to three lanes from Willow east to Hillsdale Drive.
Still undetermined is which end of East Main the project will launch – at Veterans; at Hillsdale; somewhere in between. Harbor said those details will come forth at the pre-construction meeting.
An additional stretch of East Main – between U.S. Highway 45 and Veterans – will be widened in conjunction with a state-funded project creating a corridor from downtown to the Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum. That project could start late this year.