By Jim Goodwin
I am writing to support the three-laning of Main Street from Green Street to Elizabeth Street, otherwise known as the Main Street Project.
Twelve weeks ago left turn lanes and signals were added at several high traffic intersections downtown as a test. Today travelers through Tupelo enjoy a safer and smoother traffic flow. Now, the Main Street Association is asking that the improvements be made permanent. This project is a change from how Main Street has flowed in the past. We understand that change can be hard, but results of the test prove that we’re moving in the right direction. Not everyone, obviously, supports the three-laning of this section of Main Street, saying it slows traffic and hurts business. But from our point of view, here’s why we think this is a worthy change:
Three-laning this section of Main Street makes for a safer and smoother experience. People were scared to get out of their cars before. Now, with the bike lane/buffer in effect, they are not. And this safety has NOT come at the expense of delayed drive times. After adding the left turn lanes and signals the empirical results of the 12-week long test show that because cars are coming to a full stop 38.8 percent less often as they get stalled behind cars ahead of them turning left, the total drive time through downtown has actually been reduced by 12.3 percent. According to the national traffic engineers who consulted on this test, the benefit is especially significant for westbound traffic and in the morning.
The new design will help improve the vitality of our downtown businesses. There are 35 percent more parking spaces now than there were before. More parking is something our downtown merchants have been asking for and this design provides that solution. While there are differences of opinion, 87 percent of merchants and other respondents endorse the Main Street Project.
The Main Street Project is a direct outcome of the approved City of Tupelo Comprehensive Plan. One can’t be right and the other wrong. A safe and commercially vital downtown improves Tupelo for both residents and visitors and is critical to the goal of attracting middle class families to Tupelo.
It is important to note that when the extension of Highway 6 from Pontotoc to Highway 45 is complete a substantial amount of industrial truck traffic will be off-loaded from city streets, which will further improve traffic flow through downtown. And when the road is re-paved and re-lined the lanes will be much more well-understood and attractive. What we are testing now is imperfect, but it is working.
This project has been thoroughly researched. Please ask your City Council representative to authorize Mayor Reed to sign the engineering contract with the approved contractor (ESI) to keep this project moving and to begin to tap into the $2.3 million dollars MDOT has budgeted for this project.
Jim Goodwin is volunteer Board of Directors president of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association. Contact him at Jim.Goodwin@ExpressPros.com.