City and community leaders appear to be stopped at a red light – hopefully just temporarily – in a plan seeking to get traffic lights across the city functioning in unison to help traffic flow smoother and alleviate congestion at peak times.

Work on the project began late last year when Tupelo leaders hired engineering firm Neel-Schaffer to conduct a comprehensive study of traffic patterns and signal light timing along the Main Street corridor between the intersection of Coley Road and Briar Ridge Road.

The study, which was estimated to cost nearly $187,000, was to be paid for using funds from the Major Thoroughfare Program, which receives funding from a 10-mill tax levy paid by Tupelo residents. Last spring, voters renewed the program for its sixth phase.

Since 1991, the program has widened and improved the city’s major roadways and even built some new ones to alleviate traffic congestion.

And while the MTP had in the past focused strictly on the construction of new roads, its members agreed to include a traffic signalization study on the project priority list with the goal of helping traffic flow on the city’s two biggest arterial roadways – Main and Gloster streets.

Neel-Schaffer presented a preliminary report to city officials nearly a month ago. Mayor Jason Shelton’s administration, however, found the recommendations more ambitious and more costly than expected. The administration remains in talks intended to produce a more modest package of upgrades, as reported by the Daily Journal’s local government reporter Caleb Bedillion.

Following those discussions, members of the MTP committee received some somewhat unexpected news when they learned that once the traffic study is completed, installation of additional infrastructure may be needed to implement a fully optimized set of traffic lights.

MTP committee members stated a different recollection of what they were told would be happening, saying they believed the study would include a plan that could easily be implemented without additional spending.

The issue at hands comes with how the traffic lights across the city communicate with each other. Not all lights in the city have the capability to do this currently, so it’s possible that upgrades need to be made to allow that function to take place.

Based on remarks made this week, MTP leaders do not feel this point was clearly communicated.

City leaders plan to deliver a report to MTP leadership early in June that will detail proposed upgrades and estimated costs.

There appears to have been a breakdown in communication along the way with what leaders from both entities believed would be happening and the next steps needed. While that’s certainly unfortunate, we urge those leaders to move past the miscommunication issues and formulate a reasonable plan that will allow this project to become a reality – even if that means spanning it over more time than originally allotted.

Speedbumps are inevitable with a project of this scope, but we hope progress can be made to ensure something as significant as traffic flow through our major roadways is addressed.

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