OUR OPINION: MTP builds effective traffic flow in Tupelo

Tupelo’s Major Thoroughfare Program, a voter-approved process of tax revenue investment in adequate streets, roads and intersections for the city, has advanced with relatively few bumps and detours along the way, but unexpected situations can require some mid-course corrections.

MTP Committee Chairman Greg Pirkle, a Tupelo attorney, said Tuesday additional scheduled work on East Main Street will be delayed while the Mississippi Department of Transportation works with the lawyer of a landowner to clear up details of an offer to donate to the city the land needed for East Main work.

Discussions will continue, but meanwhile, the delay impacts one of the most visible and important projects undertaken in the 22-year history of MTP because it is connected to the major work involving traffic flow between east Tupelo and downtown Tupelo.

Downtown’s traffic flow and planning have been built around the commitment to widening the bridges on East Main, adding bike paths and creating a pedestrian/bikeway from downtown to the Elvis Presley birthplace and museum, the city’s landmark tourism attraction.

Millions have been spent on the downtown part of the overall project, which was not part of the Major Thoroughfare Program but developed with MTP’s and MDOT’s cooperation.

Another project, usually called the Northern Loop, is more definite in terms of completion dates. The chief remaining obstacles are two bridges,, one under construction crossing the Natchez Trace and another scheduled to cross U.S. 78 at Coley Road Extended.

The Natchez Trace bridge is necessary to link the Northern Loop, officially Coley Road Extended, to an intersection with North Gloster and Barnes Crossing Road near the Barnes Crossing Mall and commercial district.

The bridge crossing U.S. 78 has been delayed from the original projected start by timetables within the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

The new loop road is virtually completed except for the approaches to the bridges.

The Natchez Trace Bridge is set for completion in May and the U.S. 78 bridge later. The $30 million project won’t be fully operable until both bridges are open.

In the longer view the MTP has been fully worth the investment of $4 million or more every year for the past 20.

Tupelo, which was an often gridlocked traffic snarl before the MTP was started, has opened new investment spaces and smoothed traffic flow from around the region inside the city.