Tupelo street policy gets noticed

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

It requires the municipality to incorporate sidewalks, bike lanes and other non-vehicular accommodations into all new road projects and major road improvements. Exemptions are made when accommodations are deemed unfeasible, unnecessary or cost prohibitive.
Tupelo became one of the first two cities in Mississippi to adopt the policy, which has a growing network of support across the United States. Hernando was the other. Both cities passed the resolutions Tuesday.
Since then, several outlets have reported the news, from regional newspapers to a Seattle-based environmental news site called Grist.
It also has been picked up by other online sources like the USA Today Webs site, the Philippine-based Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities, and a Romanian blog called Velorutia.
“I think it shows that people are paying attention to what their peers are doing,” said Tupelo’s Senior Planner Renee Autumn Ray. “But we didn’t do it to get some publicity and keep going about our merry way. It’s just the first step, and we have more work to do.”
Ray first introduced the policy to the council in February and has since worked with city officials and private developers to incorporate their recommendations into the plan.
It will take years – and probably decades – before the results of the Complete Streets policy transform Tupelo into a more pedestrian-friendly and bicycle-friendly city.
The plan doesn’t require the city to retrofit existing streets with non-vehicular amenities. It only requires they be considered for new streets or streets undergoing major improvements.
If streets don’t carry at least 1,000 vehicles daily, they’re off the table, as are those where adding amenities would boost the total project cost by more than 5 percent.
The policy’s original version had a 20 percent threshold; it was lowered at the council’s request.
And while private-development road projects initially were included in the policy, they no longer appear in the final resolution. The city does, however, already require private developers to put sidewalks on all new roads.
“I’m proud of our City Council’s unanimous support of this initiative as we pro-actively change Tupelo’s culture into a more walkable, cyclist-friendly community,” Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed said in a news release. “I’m proud of Hernando, too. This is good for our whole state’s quality of life.”

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