Tupelo firm to get downtown project

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – What happens in Tupelo gets engineered in Tupelo.
At least that’s the plan for the $2.9 million project to improve Main Street from downtown to Elvis Presley’s old stomping grounds.
Tupelo firm Engineering Solutions Inc. was selected from among five companies who competed for the municipal contract. The City Council is expected to approve the selection at its next meeting Tuesday.
“I’m delighted it’s a local winner, although I appreciate all the firms that submitted,” said Mayor Jack Reed Jr. at council work session Thursday when the choice was announced.
Other firms were Lakeland, Tenn.-based Askew, Hargraves, Harcourt & Associates, Tupelo-based Cook Coggin Engineers, Hernando-based Florence & Hutcheson and Brentwood, Tenn.-based RPM Transportation Consultants.
Reed had appointed a four-person committee to review the firms’ proposals, which were solicited through a legal notice in late October and early November. The group followed Mississippi Department of Transportation criteria to make its pick.
MDOT had awarded the city a $2.3 million Federal Transportation Enhancement grant for the project last year and, as such, the city must follow its guidelines each step of the way.
“All five firms met all the criteria in terms of MDOT specifications, and they were scored independently by these. Engineering Solutions was the one that was chosen,” said Debbie Brangenberg, executive director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, which is spearheading the project.
Brangenberg served on the selection committee along with Tupelo Development Services Department Director BJ Teal, city Chief Operations Officer Darrell Smith and city Engineer John Crawley.
If the council approves the pick, Brangenberg said MDOT will allow the project to move ahead. ESI then would start design work immediately, and construction could begin as soon as late May.
The project will add bike and pedestrian paths along East Main Street from Green Street east to the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum. It also will include landscaping, pedestrian amenities, traffic signal synchronization and the restriping of the downtown section of Main Street to be two lanes with a center turn lane.
A six-week test of the new lane configuration is scheduled to start by Feb. 14, although design work could start before its conclusion, Brangenberg said.
“This isn’t a ward issue; it’s a citywide issue and tax dollars from this project will be returned many-fold to all of us,” Ward 5 City Councilman Jonny Davis told his fellow council members at the work session. “Please consider that while voting.”
Davis’ district includes much of East Main Street and the birthplace.
The city must provide a 20 percent match – about $600,000 – for the project. Council members already committed to the funding last year.

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