EDITORIAL: Northern Loop

Tupelo’s economic prospects expanded immeasurably Tuesday with the awarding of three contracts for construction of the “northern loop” road in the property-tax-funded Major Thoroughfare Program.
The new road, a connector from Coley Road Extended to Barnes Crossing Road will open to potential development hundreds of acres of mostly undeveloped land, some under row-crop cultivation and some partially forested.
The $15.7 million roadway will be built in three segments:
– Coley Road Extended to Mount Vernon Road;
– Mount Vernon Road to the Natchez Trace Parkway; and, Natchez Trace to Barnes Crossing Road.
Two bridges – one spanning U.S. Highway 78 at the Coley Road crossing, and another at the Natchez Trace – will be built under separate contracts and funded respectively by the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the federal government. The projected cost for both is $8.4 million.
The first impact will be the construction jobs involved in the projects. While of limited duration, the most skilled of those jobs come with premium wages. All the jobs will have a positive impact in the Tupelo and Lee County economy in retail, sales taxes, fuel and equipment purchases.
In the main, positive economic impact of road construction is measured in three categories by the Federal Highway Administration:
– The first category includes employment supported by highway construction activities. Capital investment in streets like the northern loop (arguably more like a highway than a city street) helps bring or sustain jobs for engineers, specialists, and semi- and unskilled workers, and the contracts in turn generate jobs in supplier industries.
– The second category involves user benefits for commuters, travelers and shoppers and travelers, including time savings, safety improvements, and vehicle operating cost reductions.
– The third category is productivity, which can be applied in retail and commercial as well as industrial development. The northern loop will open up an untapped asset for new investment, which in turn produces more jobs, income, taxes, and value in Tupelo’s gross economic product.
Nobody knows specifically what new investments will be attracted by the northern loop and the larger “Toyota corridor” (which includes U.S. Highway 78 and McCullough Boulevard) to which it will be connected, but nobody doubts that the new road holds sea change potential for Tupelo and Lee County.
Next week, when the process of applying for assembly jobs at the Toyota plant at Blue Springs is explained, the larger potential of the northern loop and the whole Major Thoroughfare Program concept will become clearer as thousands of jobs come into focus.

NEMS Daily Journal