At LastBy ANTHONY WARREN,
Mayor secures financing for major North State project
Two years and numerous discussions later, the city of Jackson is finally moving forward on the North State Street and West County Line Road reconstruction projects.
And the projects will be moving forward more than a year ahead of schedule.
Last week, the city council approved contracts for TL Wallace and Hemphill Construction for the work, and contracts with Neel-Schaffer Engineering to oversee the work.
Both projects are being funded with a $19.5 million federal TIGER grant. Additionally, the city will pay for the work using a $2.1 federal earmark, $2.9 million in state transportation block grant monies and $6 million in one-percent infrastructure dollars.
The one-percent commission approved allocating a full $6 million to cover the local match last month.
The remaining $6 million will come from long-term debt. Jackson officials hope to use one-percent dollars to leverage bonds.
“It’s not a question of if we’ll be able to leverage but how much,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said. “In any scenario, it far exceeds the amount required for this particular project.”
He said funds obtained through leveraging would be used not only for North State and West County Line, but for other infrastructure needs as well.
“The forward momentum and attentive ear by which our current administration is moving is most impressive and shows its willingness and dedication to meet the needs of our community through the allocation of funds necessary to complete projects such as the Tiger Grant and the Fondren Enhancement Grant,” said Jim Wilkirson, Fondren Renaissance Foundation executive director.
All contracts were
See State Street Project, Page 10A
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approved on 5-0 votes, with Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote and Ward Seven Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay voting in favor.
The state transportation commission also signed off on the work last week, clearing the final hurdle to allowing construction to move forward.
In all, the projects are expected to cost around $41.8 million, more than $6 million more than original estimates.
Project costs have risen, in part, because North State will require a complete reconstruction.
The North State section will run from Sheppard Road to Hartfield Street, a roughly two-mile stretch.
In addition to replacing and rebuilding the road, the water mains underneath it will have to be replaced, as will some of the sewer lines, said Neel-Schaffer Engineer Jonathan Kiser.
Also construction will have to be done under traffic, meaning a portion of North State Street will have to remain open during the duration of the work.
Initially, the project was expected to cost $35.5 million.
Foote believes the increase is reasonable.
“This is very extensive because it requires a lot of underground repairs,” he said. “It would be hard to make estimates on a project like this from the front end.”
Work is expected to begin before the end of the year, and will be completed by 2020.
The projects are actually moving forward ahead of schedule. According to the TIGER grant application, the projects were not expected to get under way until 2019.
“The State Street corridor is Jackson’s most well known and travelled street bisecting our entire city. The infrastructure overhaul of this corridor paired with the addition of ADA compliant sidewalks, landscaping and bike path will forever mark the dedication of those seeking the betterment of our city,” Wilkirson said
“These projects represent a new Jackson and Fondren Renaissance is most proud of its partnership and leadership role in making these grants a reality.”
during the council meeting Ward Six Councilman Aaron Banks asked the mayor what would happen if the commission didn’t approve leveraging the funds.
“In our discussions (the commission) is in agreement with the need to leverage. Even if they weren’t, (It’s) not in the purview of the commission (to decide),” he said. “Their role is approving the overall master plan.
“We have not hidden this strategy from the commission. We’ve shared our strategy and our desire or our intent to leverage,” he added. “Everyone has been in full agreement.”
Commission vice-chair Duane O’Neill supports leveraging funds. “Anything we can do to hasten improving the infrastructure is necessary,” he said.
The city opened bids for both streets this summer. Low bid for the North State project was around $19.6 million from Hemphill Construction. T.L. Wallace submitted the low bid for West County Line, for around $15.4 million. Combined, both bids totaled less than $35.1 million.
From Hartfield to Choctaw Road, the North State project will include rebuilding North State as a two-lane road way with a 10-foot multi-use path along the southbound lane. From Choctaw to Northside Drive, North State will include two lanes and a center turn lane, along with a 10-foot multi-use path also along the southbound lane. The final stretch, from Northside to Sheppard, will also be three lanes, but with a 10-foot-wide multi-use path along the northbound lane, Neel-Schaffer President Hibbett Neel said.
West County Line will include eliminating the existing railroad track and building a new rail cross bridge west of the existing bridge, to allow motorists to drive under the railroad track rather than above it.
The street will also be widened to four lanes, according to arists’ renderings. Work is designed to open up acreage along West County Line for new development, as well as to make the street safer for motorists.
“Another thing we’re going to see will be a couple of large entrance signs that say ‘welcome to Tougaloo,’ so that should be very attractive,” Neel told the council.
TIGER grants are “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery” grants, which are awarded through the U.S. Department of Transportation. Jackson received $16.5 million in TIGER dollars in 2015, an amount that was increased to $19.5 million recently.
The entire project is being built within existing right-of-way, he said.