Coming SoonBy ANTHONY WARREN,
More than $26 million earmarked to rehab North State Street
For the thousands of motorists who drive North State Street each day, the commute could soon be a lot smoother, with $26.3 million in projects ongoing or planned for the roadway.
Thanks to a combination of state, local and federal funds, the heavily traveled thoroughfare is slated to be repaired and in some cases completely rebuilt, promising a much better experience for drivers.
Among projects, construction is under way on the North State TIGER Grant project, which runs from Sheppard Road to Hartfield Street. That work is being paid for with federal dollars.
Farther south, federal monies are being used to repave a section of North State from Woodrow Wilson Avenue to Fortification Street.
State officials plan to pick up at Fortification and pave the road south to Capital Street, using “Capitol Complex Improvement District” funds.
John Sewell, director of communications and marketing with Millsaps College, said students, parents and college officials alike welcome the news.
For those individuals, it will mean an end to driving around potholes when driving to and from the campus. For the college itself, it means giving prospective students a better first impression of the school and the city.
“State Street coming off of Woodrow Wilson leads right up to our front door. When we’re recruiting, it’s important that the first impression is a good one,” Sewell said. “The condition of the roads doesn’t always present the best first impression.”
Millsaps’ 100-acre campus is bordered by North State, Woodrow Wilson, North West Street and Marshall Street. The school has 985 students.
Sewell said parents and students visiting the campus have brought up the street’s condition but has no evidence that it’s turned students away.
“We’ve encouraged the city to make repairs to State Street,” Sewell said. “It’s a critical north-south corridor and getting it in to proper shape will be to the benefit of Millsaps and everybody that lives and works here.”
Approximately 18,000 vehicles a day travel the street in front of Millsaps. In other areas, traffic ranges from 10,000 to more than 15,000 vehicles, according to Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) traffic count maps.
Ralph Kelly, executive minister of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, said he’s pleased a project is in the works, and suspects his parishioners also will be pleased with the news.
First Presbyterian has about 3,000 members, of which between 1,200 and 1,500 attend each Sunday.
“Once or twice a year, I hear of a member who has had a tire go out on them going up State Street, and that’s always frustrating,” he said. “We’re very glad to hear they’re going to be doing the work.”
Projects vary in scope, size and price. The $19.6 million North State TIGER project includes completely reconstructing the roadway from Sheppard to Hartfield, a roughly two-mile stretch.
Work includes removing the existing road, replacing and repairing the water and sewer lines underneath it, and building a new road and sidewalks on top. As part of the project, State will be reduced from four lanes to two between Hartfield and Choctaw Road and to two lanes and a turn lane from Choctaw to Sheppard.
Hemphill Construction is contractor and was brought on by the city last year. The second phase got under way in December but fell behind some by February because of inclement weather.
The project is being paid for with a portion of a $19.5 million federal “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery,” or TIGER, Grant, as well as funds from Jackson’s one-percent infrastructure sales tax.
For the next project, Jackson received a $1.4 million grant through the federal “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” (FAST) Act. The city received the funds from the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District (CMPDD).
That work includes milling and overlaying the roadway from Fortification to Woodrow Wilson. Waggoner Engineering was brought on to design the project last summer for approximately $284,000. The project is currently ready to be bid out.
The Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) is planning to spend up to $4,980,000 to repair the street from Fortification to Capital. The project is one of eight priorities included in the CCID master plan.
The plan governs how DFA will spend funds set aside for the district, which takes in a large swath of Jackson, including portions of downtown Jackson, Northeast Jackson, Fondren and Belhaven.
Estimates include project design ($622,500), milling and overlay ($1,650,000) and water and sewer rehab $(2,500,000). The plan was drawn up by Waggoner, AJA Consultants and Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons Architects and Engineers.
DFA Executive Director Laura Jackson hopes to begin design work this year but didn’t know when construction would begin.
No work is planned for the section between Hartfield and Woodrow Wilson.
Jackson has to rely on federal funds and state to repair the roadway largely because of its shrinking tax base and dwindling revenues.
The state began deeding over State Street in the 1950s. The final section was handed over to Jackson in 1974, after city and state officials determined traffic use along the roadway was mostly local, and that the road no longer formed a substantial part of the state highway system.
An agreement was made that the state would repave the road one last time, the city would pay for curb work and striping, and would take over the street’s jurisdiction once the project was complete.
At the time, the decision was a win-win for both entities. The state government was struggling financially, while Jackson was booming. The capital city’s population would reach its peak in 1980, with nearly 203,000 residents. Today, Jackson has approximately 167,000 inhabitants.