The reason for such overwhelming support is that the citizen-driven program has provided tangible, visible benefits that improved the quality of life for people who live, work and shop in the city. They can get where they need to go much quicker and with considerably less congestion than was the case before.
Initially, many people were skeptical - 43.5 percent of the voters opposed the initial thoroughfare tax in 1991 - but after witnessing the results, many more citizens were convinced it was a wise and effective use of their tax dollars.
The fourth phase of the program is up, and on Tuesday voters in Tupelo will decide whether to renew it for another five years. Here's what will not happen if the voters say yes:
- Taxes will not go up. The 10-mill levy that funds the program will simply remain in place.
- Thoroughfare funds won't be spent for anything other than major road improvements, based on the plan recommended by the volunteer MTP committee and approved by the City Council. While there were earlier discussions of using some of the money for city revitalization projects or for routine street maintenance, neither idea was adopted. The thoroughfare millage will continue to fund only thoroughfares.
Here's what will happen if the yes vote prevails on Tuesday:
- Five-laning of South Gloster from Garfield to new Highway 6 near South Green extended; East Main from U.S. 45 to Willow Road; Eason Boulevard from Veterans Boulevard to Briar Ridge Road; and Veterans from East Main to U.S. 78.
- Right-turn lanes added on North Gloster near the mall.
- Three-laning of South Thomas Street from Cliff Gookin Boulevard to new Highway 6 and West Jackson Street from Coley Road to Air Park Road.
If the no votes prevail, the thoroughfare program will end and these projects won't be funded.
The debate over use of thoroughfare funds was healthy and useful for the city. There may come a day when a redirection is approved, but it won't be in the upcoming five-year period. That's certain, so voters who want all the thoroughfare money to go to thoroughfare projects can be assured that it will.
The Major Thoroughfare Program merits another extension to accommodate and encourage Tupelo's growth.