Tupelo’s Eason bridge project breaks ground

TUPELO – Dirt moved Monday on the $2.3 million Eason Boulevard bridge project, ending a year-long construction hiatus for the city’s Major Thoroughfare Program.
About two dozen stakeholders gathered at the project site, near Town Creek, for a brief ceremony. They included U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss., aides from Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and members of the Major Thoroughfare Committee.
Also present were representatives from Carson Construction. The Carthage-based company won the contract to build the bridge, which will be finished by late summer or early fall next year.
Construction was supposed to have started more than a year ago, but governmental red tape combined with new funding rules plagued it from the start. Each time the city’s Major Thoroughfare Committee thought it had the go-ahead to begin, a new rule or regulation would surface to thwart the process.
The bridge will sit parallel to an existing two-lane bridge that handles both east-and-west traffic on the five-lane boulevard. When it’s done, one will take eastbound vehicles and the other will handle westbound traffic, thus alleviating the bottlenecks that occur when all five lanes squeeze onto the single bridge.
Money for the bridge will be provided almost exclusively from federal funds. Of its total cost, $1.2 million is coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the federal stimulus bill.
Most of the rest comes from federally earmarked money, said Phillip Harbor, Major Thoroughfare project director.
Any remaining costs will be paid from the Major Thoroughfare Project account, which is funded by city taxpayers in five-year phases. The Major Thoroughfare Committee is halfway through its current five-year phase.
In addition to the bridge, the volunteer-based group is building a road connecting west Tupelo to the Barnes Crossing commercial district. A portion of that project has been completed, but several more sections await construction.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal