OUR OPINION: Bridge bid approval moves change closer

By NEMS Daily Journal

Tupelo’s City Council moved one step closer Tuesday night to closing the gap on the eastern end of the “northern loop” thoroughfare – and signaled clearly that 4.5 miles of virtually undeveloped, mostly agricultural land along the new route is a heartbeat away from potentially dramatic growth and changes.
The bridge, which will span the national scenic parkway on low-lying land between Old Town Overlook and the Natchez Trace headquarters building, will cost $7.4 million and require about 16 months of construction, placing completion sometime in 2014. That northern loop portion might open soon after.
The Major Thoroughfare Program project also will require another bridge, crossing U.S. Highway 78 near Belden and connecting to Coley Road Extended.
The northern loop, as posted on maps of the recently annexed area that includes the new street, will be named Barnes Crossing Road Extended from North Gloster Street to U.S. 78.
More importantly, the annexation map has designated frontage near the intersection of Barnes Crossing Road Extended and Mount Vernon Road for general commercial development – the kind of expansion envisioned by planners and the Major Thoroughfare Committee when the idea was under consideration. The land at the intersection has a higher elevation than surrounding land and is more suited for immediate use when the road is completed.
One commercial establishment has opened near the intersection, the Native Son Farm store and distribution center, at 3811 Mount Vernon Rd.
Tupelo planner Pat Falkner said Wednesday afternoon the Barnes Crossing Extended zoning is considered a stop-gap and is subject to revision when the city’s planners present the council with a new development code in early 2013. That, he noted, will require rezoning the whole city.
Falkner also said much of the land along the new road is in the Town Creek flood plain and would require compliance with flood plain building ordinances where applicable. Falkner suggested that large-tract development in the flood plain, mostly under cultivation in present use, would require major investment.
A similar zoning and general commecial development designation can be anticipated near the U.S. 78 bridge, Falkner noted.
In the longer view, the northern loop may be the MTP’s most significant investment.