TUPELO • Construction plans involving a potential seventh phase of the taxpayer-funded Major Thoroughfare Program have advanced another step through the machinery of local government.
The leadership of Tupelo’s unique road-building program convened Monday afternoon and reviewed a report brought forward by a subcommittee tasked with identifying the city’s most significant infrastructure needs across the coming years.
However, there’s still a long way to go before Phase VII of the Major Thoroughfare Program receives a green light.
After some deliberation Monday afternoon, the Major Thoroughfare committee delayed a final vote on a Phase VII project list until next month.
If the committee approves the list as currently drafted, Tupelo City Council will need to approve the list and call a voter referendum for next year. The outcome of that election will determine whether Major Thoroughfare – and its 10-mill tax levy, nearly a third of the property tax bill in the city – is renewed for a seventh five-year phase.
“This is probably one of the largest responsibilities that we have: deciding what are we doing in the next phase,” committee chairman Greg Pirkle said.
Stuart Johnson spearheaded the subcommittee that compiled a proposed project list. Johnson said that current estimates show that the committee would see about $27.5 million in tax revenue over the next five-year phase.
Current plans dedicate 25% of that money to road maintenance, such as resurfacing. The remaining funds would be available for road projects, including widening and new construction.
But with some $40 million in proposed projects on the table, the program’s leaders know the ambitions for the project outstrip the money to pay for them.
“We have got a lot more projects than we have funds,” Johnson said.
Proposed projects include
- Widening the rest of Jackson Street to three lanes, including sections from Airpark to Thomas, Thomas to Joyner, and Madison to Front. This is considered a major priority.
- Widening Eason Boulevard between the intersections of Veterans Boulevard and Briar Ridge Road. This is considered a major priority.
- Widening Veterans Boulevard between the intersections of Main Street and Hamm Street. This is considered a major priority.
- Widening Elizabeth Street from East Main Street to Green Street.
- New construction of a loop that would begin on Gloster Street, likely near Best Buy, and continue north toward Barnes Crossing Road, running to the west of the shopping center that includes Sam’s Club and Walmart.
- Widening Veterans Boulevard from Hamm Street to the interchange of Interstate 22.
- Widening Airpark from Jackson Street to Main Street. This is considered a lower priority project.
- Aligning the intersection of McPherson and Highway 6. This is considered a lower priority project.
Major Thoroughfare members did not deliberate over the project list in depth on Monday and instead suggested pushing a decision to October to allow for more thought and consideration.
According to Don Lewis, the city’s chief operations officer, current plans call for Major Thoroughfare’s renewal vote next year to occur on its own, and will not be combined with the balloting for municipal elections.