By Rod Guajardo
TUPELO – The $20 to $30 million projects that will be tackled in the next phase of the Major Thoroughfare Program will be dissected and selected in the coming months.
Members of the Major Thoroughfare Program Committee received Monday afternoon a presentation from Dustin Dabbs with Civil Link, an engineering surveying firm tasked with completing a study to determine the area’s future roadway needs.
The comphrensive transportation plan listed 16 possible infrastructure alternatives that Dabbs said were compiled using a combination of traffic studies estimating the area’s needs in the next 10 to 20 years, as well as significant public involvement such as the responses from 600 public surveys.
The list, Dabbs said, is prioritized based on the company’s studies, but doesn’t mean committee members can’t deem a project low on the list as needing to be done quicker.
Currently listed as the top priority on the list is a plan for traffic signal timing and optimization, which would work to link traffic signals to available fiber optic cable infrastructure and implement signal timing plans.
Dobbs said linking all the traffic signals in the city together, as opposed to having them operate separately as they are now, would significantly improve traffic flow throughout the entire area.
Other projects ranged from an extension of Commonwealth Drive to Mall Circle to widening South Thomas Street to relieve future congestion.
One project committee chairman Greg Pirkle said needed to be prioritized, which received support from other members, was the possibility of creating a five-lane road on North Veterans Boulevard between Main Street and Highway 78.
High traffic from the Tupelo Aquatic Center, Eastwood Softball Complex and Elvis Presley Birthplace, Pirkle said, is creating congestion throughout that area.
“That’s going to be a discussion that needs to be had, but not everybody in the city is going to agree on,” Pirkle said. “I would love to see us increase our capacity as much as we can because we don’t want to deter development on that side, and we want people to be able to get to restaurants on Main Street.”
Ward 5 Councilman Buddy Palmer agreed with Pirkle on the need to study the area saying he thinks the traffic has tripled on the roadway since the opening of the aquatic center.
“I think it’s beginning to become a safety hazard,” Palmer said.
Members of the MTP steering committee will review the list of infrastructure projects and bring back recommendations to the committee by July.
The MTP is funded by a 10-mill special tax that must be approved by the voters every five years. The next vote is slated for May 2016.
Once the list of projects are finalized, Pirkle said community meetings would be scheduled to detail specifics.