By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – A critical portion of Tupelo’s northern loop project can proceed after city leaders on Tuesday approved a costly construction bid.
Madison-based Key Constructors will build a bridge over the Natchez Trace Parkway as part of a 4.5-mile road connecting west Tupelo to the Barnes Crossing shopping district.
The road itself is nearly complete but lacks the bridge over the Natchez Trace, as well as one over U.S. Highway 78. Construction of both bridges is expected to begin this year.
Bids for the Natchez Trace bridge came in at least $1.4 million over the original estimate, causing some concern about the Major Thoroughfare Program’s ability to pay for it.
The Major Thoroughfare Program is a taxpayer-funded initiative that improves Tupelo’s transportation network. It gets about $4 million annually from a 10-mill property tax.
Earlier this year, the committee tasked with administering the program sought emergency funds from the city’s rainy day account on an as-needed basis. The committee ultimately will have enough money for each of its ongoing projects, but bills might come in faster than tax collections. In that case, the city agreed to loan it money from its reserves.
That issue arose again this week as City Council members prepared to vote on the bridge bid. Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell wanted to know if the higher-than-expected construction bid would add to the amount potentially drained from the city’s rainy day fund.
Committee Chairman Greg Pirkle told the council that, despite the high bid, the program will have enough to pay for all the projects in its current five-year phase.
“We will still end the program with $7.7 million approximately,” Pirkle said. “There is, by far, enough money in the program to complete this bid.”
The five-lane, 320-foot bridge will take an estimated 16 months to build.