Twenty-five years ago, Tupelo’s growth was making travel on its limited streets almost impossible. Being Tupelo, we set out to fix that problem, and we have. The Major Thoroughfare Program was established as a citizen-led, pay-as-you-go plan to build the streets we needed. The huge success of that program is obvious this month with the opening of Highway 6 all the way to Oxford and the partial opening of the Northern Loop. We need to continue the MTP every five years as Tupelo continues to grow.
But now we are facing a similar problem with our railroads and the number of trains that daily pass right through the middle of town. MDOT spent $2 million of federal money and came up with a totally unworkable solution that would cost $450-plus million to build. I had given them a much better and cheaper solution, but how could they propose it when my plan was free. So their waste of time and money is gathering dust on the shelf at City Hall.
But we still have the problem and it is getting worse. No. 1, we must do whatever is necessary to turn the train horns off and establish a quiet zone all the way through Tupelo. No. 2, we need to look into the possibility of turning the switch yard around so that Crosstown is not blocked multiple times a day as they juggle railroad cars. No. 3, we need to find out what must be done to speed the trains up as they pass “silently” through Tupelo. Currently the speed limit is 20 mph. At 40 mph, the intersections would be blocked for 50 percent less time. And lastly, my plan to actually move the trains from the middle of our city needs to get the attention it deserves.
The recent smoothing of the Crosstown intersection shows that we can make improvements by working directly with the BNSF Railroad. Maybe it is time for a new citizens committee to be appointed to get to work to fix the rest of the problems caused by the 20-plus daily trains that cut our city in half.