TUPELO • There have been continued delays over nearly four years, but the project remains on track – the railroad tracks, that is.
In June 2016, the Mississippi Department of Transportation announced the award of a grant intended to help the city of Tupelo upgraded some railroad crossings near the downtown area, at a price tag of just over $1 million.
The original announcement cited the intersections of Spring Street and Clark Street as the targets of the grant funding. Later, the project widened to possibly include railroad crossings at Jefferson, Clark, Spring and Park streets.
Now, however, the city wants to contract the project scope to the railroad BNSF railroad crossings at Spring Street and Park Street, according to city engineer Dennis Bonds.
The city is submitting a change of scope request to MDOT for approval, and does not anticipate any hurdles, especially since this is the second such request, Bonds said.
“I don’t anticipate any trouble,” Bonds said.
The city is yet again revising the project because of rising costs, Bonds said. Part of the project will require the railroad company to perform some work to the rail lines, and quotes for part of that work turned out higher than anticipated, to the tune of some $300,000 over budget estimates of $1.1 million for the project total.
The city’s engineer that, despite the delays, the city may only be a year out from completing the work at hand.
“I’m hoping in the next calendar year to not only have some dirt turned on the project but to have it completed or at least substantially completed,” Bonds said.
The Spring Street BNSF railroad crossing is located between the intersections of of Clark Street and Elliot Street.
The Park Street BNSF crossing is located between the intersections of Jefferson Street and Main Street, near Kroger.
The planned upgrades at the crossings will include the addition of crossing arms, flashing lights and the construction of some sidewalks.
The MDOT grant – the Transportation Alternative Program – is intended to foster infrastructure projects for pedestrians, bicyclists, off-road trails and the like.
The money for this grant program ultimately flows from the federal government.
These crossing upgrades would also help the city on its much-discussed but long-delayed effort to earn a quiet zone in the city, however much additional work would still be needed to advance that goal.
Federal regulations dictate when and for how long trains must sound a warning blast upon approaching a crossing with a road.
However, with certain features installed at a crossing, including crossing arms, those regulations can be waived.