OUR OPINION: Thoroughfare success rests on public buy-in

If there’s one model program that Tupelo city government can point to above all others as innovative, sustainable and results-producing, it’s the Major Thoroughfare Program.

For 23 years, the program has opened up bottlenecked areas in the city and made traffic flow much smoother and more efficient than it would have been otherwise. It has been a pivotal factor in Tupelo’s strong commercial and retail growth over the last two decades.

The MTP’s foundational strength is the built-in requirement that public support must be periodically reaffirmed for the program to proceed. The first vote in 1991 to add a 10-mill tax for a pay-as-you-go road enhancement program was comparatively close, but since then each five-year phase has been overwhelmingly approved by voters, the last two with “yes” votes exceeding 80 percent.

This strong public affirmation of the MTP grows out of the obvious tangible benefits it has produced. People see what their taxes are paying for, they recognize the benefit and they like it.

In addition to the every-five-year vote on a new plan, those plans are developed by a volunteer citizen committee with the public’s input. That makes the plans eventually adopted all the more credible when they’re put to a vote.

We’re at the public input stage again. It’s the third year of the current five-year phase, and the Major Thoroughfare Program Committee wants to know what Tupelo residents think should be transportation priorities over the next decade in the city.

A 29-section online questionnaire – civil-link.com/survey/ – asks for the public’s perspective on where the current traffic snarls are in the city, which roads need improving and where people think it might make sense to build completely new roads. The soon-to-open northern link connecting Coley Road with the Barnes Crossing area is actually the first new road built in the MTP’s history. All other construction has been widening and otherwise improving existing major arteries in the city.

The new survey, for which hard copies are available at City Hall, offers the latest chance for the public to have its say – not only for the MTP, but for work that might be outside its purview. For continued success in the program, sustained public input is vital.

Major Thoroughfare is one government program that has delivered on its promise and used tax dollars wisely and efficiently. That record only can be sustained with continued public buy-in and support.