TUPELO – The city this month will complete $50,000 in sidewalk improvements but acknowledges more work remains before Tupelo can become a truly pedestrian-friendly city.

The Public Works Department has either repaired, replaced or poured 4,100 linear feet of concrete sidewalk throughout downtown, said Bobby Coghlan, special projects coordinator.

Work started Oct. 1 and took place on portions of Court, Main, Church, Madison, Magazine and Green streets.

When the project wraps up in a few weeks, the city will have drained its sidewalk budget until the next fiscal year, which starts in October.

City leaders typically allocate between $25,000 and $60,000 annually to sidewalk projects, said Public Works Director Sid Russell.

This year was no different, but Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said he’d like to increase the amount as the economy improves.

“This is absolutely on my radar for the future,” Reed said. “And it may well be part of a bond issue we might look at if the citizens want, which I think they do, and our administration certainly does want to encourage healthy lifestyles and improving the quality of life in Tupelo.”

Since taking office in July, Reed has urged residents to get healthy and walk more. But the city lacks an integrated network of sidewalks, and pedestrian safety remains an issue.

Senior City Planner Renee Autumn Ray has heard from numerous residents during a series of public meetings and online questionnaires, and many of them want more sidewalks.

She recommended a three-prong strategy for the city that involves first connecting the existing sidewalks to form a larger network. Then, she said, Tupelo should create sidewalks around each public school and connect them to the grid.

Finally, she said, she’d like to see sidewalks along the major thoroughfares, which pedestrians use daily to run errands despite the lack of safe walking paths.

Tupelo should “be more inclusive to consider not just motorists,” Ray said, “but every user when looking at streets.”

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

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