Tupelo's Main Street project inches forward

By Carlie Kollath Wells/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The project to overhaul the downtown section of Main Street crossed another hurdle this week.
Officials met Tuesday to have a field review of the project that will permanently convert a portion of Main Street to three lanes, along with adding bike lanes, sidewalks, additional pedestrian amenities, decorative lighting and landscaping.
The field review comes after the bulk of the design work is completed, according to Debbie Brangenberg, the executive director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association. The group is spearheading the project’s development with the state Department of Transportation.
Representatives from Main Street, MDOT, the Community Development Foundation, Public Works, the participating engineering firms and the subcontractors met from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday and looked for any additional revisions to the plans before moving forward. They then walked the route from the intersection of Green and Main streets to the Elvis Presley Birthplace.
“We looked at in-field comparisons to what we had on paper,” Brangenberg said. “This is where we’re just doing the final tweaking of the plan and meeting all the criteria.”
For example, they were looking at the slope of sidewalks and checking that additional sidewalks wouldn’t interfere with power lines or other utilities.
Brangenberg said the review didn’t find any major issues that would mean changes to what has been proposed. Travis Wampler, who is MDOT’s local liaison for this project, agreed.
“We didn’t find any issues that were going to cause issues in the project,” he said. “We’re proceeding forward.”
The next steps include doing additional design work for the bridges, he said. Two of the three bridges between Highway 45 and Veterans Boulevard will be widened to have four vehicular lanes, a center turn lane, two sidewalks and two shoulders that will double as bike lanes.
The next big benchmark, Brangenberg said, is submitting the project to MDOT for an office review. She hopes to do that by the end of this year so they can start advertising for construction bids in January. If everything goes smoothly, Brangenberg said construction may start in the first quarter of 2013, which would be the two-year mark since Main Street was temporarily restriped to three lanes to test the traffic pattern.
Once construction starts, leaders say it could take 18 to 24 months to finish the project.
“I think things are moving very well,” she said. “The final project will be much better than I think we even anticipated. … I think it’s going to make a huge difference in this corridor and open up great possibilities for growth.”
carlie.wells@journalinc.com