OUR OPINION: Thoroughfare study can provide a guide

By NEMS Daily Journal

Twenty-one years ago, traffic in Tupelo was clogging streets ill-suited for a growing city. A study commissioned for the fledgling Major Thoroughfare Program laid out a vision for the future that would greatly improve those conditions.
It included a traffic loop circling the city and significant improvements to the major east-west and north-south thoroughfares, Main and Gloster streets.
Today, that vision is largely realized. The Major Thoroughfare Program is in its fifth five-year phase, paid for by a voter-approved 10-mill tax levy that Tupelo citizens have given increasingly overwhelming endorsements in elections every five years.
It’s fair to say that the commercial and industrial growth Tupelo has achieved in the last 20 years wouldn’t have been possible without the Major Thoroughfare Program and that the program itself wouldn’t have been as effective without the professional study that guided it.
It’s entirely appropriate, then, that the citizens’ committee that oversees the Major Thoroughfare Program update that 1991 study to consider the changes that have occurred in the period since and what that should mean for the program in the future. The committee has invited five firms to submit bids for the study, which it expects to cost about $100,000.
The biggest need over the past 20 years has been for widening Tupelo’s major streets to accommodate increased traffic and development. Priorities for the next 20 years may not be quite as obvious this time around.
A broad, all-encompassing study of commercial and residential development patterns in the city may yield different priorities than a casual drive around Tupelo might suggest.
There’s also the need to consider carefully how those patterns might change over the next 20 years as the city follows its own comprehensive plan, which encourages more compact, pedestrian friendly development and a focus on revitalizing inner city neighborhoods as opposed to further spreading out away from the heart of town.
In short, the needs of the next 20 years may look somewhat different than those of the last 20. A comprehensive study can give the program a renewed vision that recognizes and adapts to changes of all kinds.