Tupelo residents OK northern loop

TUPELO – Winter weather didn’t deter several dozen people from attending Thursday’s public hearing about the city’s northern loop.
The three-hour meeting at City Hall drew mostly supporters of the 4.5-mile road project, which will connect west Tupelo to the Barnes Crossing area.
The project involves the leg stretching from Barnes Crossing Road to Highway 78 and, more specifically, how it crosses 78 and the Natchez Trace Parkway.
While supporters were plenty, a few opponents were present.
“I guess I’m opposed,” said Will Reed, a Tupelo native who returned home from northern California recently with plans for an organic vegetable garden just south of the proposed road.
Reed said he worries about noise and pollution and said the project’s costs seem to outweigh its proposed benefits.
“I heard the road is supposed to help traffic at Christmastime because it’s hard to get to the mall,” Reed said. “But that’s just once a year.”
Alleviating congestion at the busy Barnes Crossing shopping district is one of the main reasons for the estimated $20 million road, which is being built by the city’s Major Thoroughfare Program.
And many at the public hearing support the project.
“I think it’s great,” said Tupelo resident Sarah Jenkins. “We live off of Chesterville Road, and we have to go up McCullough or take the Natchez Trace to get to the mall now. We can’t wait to have this new road. We’re counting on it.”
Officials from the Major Thoroughfare Program, Federal Highway Administration, Mississippi Department of Transportation and Natchez Trace Parkway were at the meeting to answer questions and listen to concerns.
Parkway Superintendent Cam Sholly said the issue “epitomizes the balance between economic and environmental decision-making.” He also said it has been an intentionally long process to ensure the bridge meets everyone’s needs.
“We have one chance to make it right,” Sholly said, “because that bridge will be there a long time, 50 years or more.”
Comments collected from the hearing will be entered into record and help officials make a final decision. Most anticipate the road will proceed as planned, including a four-lane bridge over the Trace.
“We’ve been very pleased with the turnout,” said Major Thoroughfare Committee Chairman Greg Pirkle. “Most comments have been positive, and people have wanted to know how soon we can get started.”
Construction should recommence on the road by spring.
One section of the loop already is complete, the roadway from McCullough Boulevard to Highway 78. Four more sections still have to be built.
Each phase of the thoroughfare program lasts five years. Two more years are left on this phase.

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

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal