By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – One year after work resumed on the city’s ambitious northern loop project, construction continues to move at a steady clip.
By mid-2013, the new road linking west Tupelo to the Barnes Crossing shopping district could open to the public.
“Everything is on schedule,” said John White of Engineering Solutions Inc., the firm heading the project for Tupelo’s Major Thoroughfare Program.
The 4.5-mile stretch begins at the intersection of Coley Road and McCullough Boulevard, extends to the north and east, and ends at the intersection of Barnes Crossing Road and Gloster Street. Work has been split into six projects:
• Building the road from Coley to U.S. Highway 78 – Completed in early 2008 by Grayco Construction of Falkner. It cost $1.4 million.
• Erecting a bridge over U.S. 78 – In the design phase; construction could begin by early to mid next year and take one year to complete. It will cost about $5.6 million.
• Building the road from U.S. 78 to Mount Vernon Road – Under construction by Glasgow Construction of Guin, Ala.; to be completed by February. It will cost roughly $6 million.
• Building the road from Mount Vernon to the Natchez Trace Parkway – Under construction by Phillips Contracting of Columbus; to be completed by February. It will cost about $4.2 million.
• Erecting a bridge over the Natchez Trace – In the design phase; construction could start late this year and take one year to complete. It’ll cost an estimated $6 million.
• Building the road from the Natchez Trace to Barnes Crossing – Under construction by Prairie Construction of Tupelo; to be completed by October. It will cost about $2 million
In all, the project will cost more than $25 million, with a majority of funding coming from the Major Thoroughfare Program’s annual 10-mill property tax allocation. The rest comes from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which is paying for the bridge over U.S. 78.
Despite its swift start, the northern loop had hit numerous obstacles – wetland mitigation, tribal land negotiations, new state and federal construction obligations – that delayed its progress by several years.
After sitting idle from early 2008 to mid 2010, the project now is nearing completion. Only the bridges, both of which require intense collaboration with state and federal agencies, are taking more time than originally planned.
When it’s done, the road will provide extra access to and from the bustling commercial district. It also will offer new road-side property for future development.
City Planner Pat Falkner said he’s unaware of any current development plans along the new route but didn’t dismiss the possibility of something emerging as the road nears completion.