By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Citizens can try to convince the city to build a new street in Tupelo by simply filling out an online survey as community input is sought for short- and long-range transportation plans.
The city’s Major Thoroughfare Program wants citizen input to help decide which streets need improvements and where new ones belong as part of the Tupelo Comprehensive Transportation Plan, intended to help guide transportation efforts in the city for the next decade.
“It’s asking for input for where you see traffic congestion,” Greg Pirkle, MTP chairman, said of the survey. “It’s specific with helping us make a presentation to citizens of Tupelo but also broad to help make recommendations for as many projects as we can.”
Survey findings and other data collected could also help the city determine other projects beyond the scope of the MTP.
The 29-section questionnaire will help determine how areas needing traffic improvement rank in the community’s collective mind. Residents without Internet access can find paper copies of the survey at City Hall.
The MTP’s current phase is entering the remaining two years of the five-year plan approved by voters in 2011 using 10 mills of taxes to fund about $4 million annually in road improvements.
Every five years since 1991, Tupelo voters have decided by overwhelming margins to support the additional tax to fund street construction and widening projects the city otherwise couldn’t afford.
The next vote will occur in 2016, leading the MTP to contract with an consulting engineering firm Civil Link to help gauge public support for projects. Current efforts include the $23.4 million Northern Loop that will connect Coley Road to Barnes Crossing Road. Remaining parts of that project include bridges over the Natchez Trace and Highway 78, due for completion in June and December respectively.
This summer, the second phase of the $12.5 million East Main Street widening project will begin. This work on East Main Street will stretch from Elizabeth Street to Veterans Boulevard and extend north to the Elvis Presley’s Birthplace. Federal funding of $2.3 million will contribute bike paths and sidewalks to the enhancement effort expected to take 18 months.
Pirkle points to less traffic congestion in much of the city as proof of the MTP’s success and reason for the public to add ideas about what could happen next.
“They’ve always approved and appreciated the roads we’ve built,” he said. “For it to continue, we need to have public buy-in and let them know we’re listening to the projects they want,” he said.