Good news for tree lovers: Most of the live oaks along Riverside Drive are expected to remain in place when construction to improve the road begins.
“According to the city engineer, there is no intention to remove the trees along Riverside Drive,” said Jackson city council member Virgi Lindsay of Ward 7.
“Every effort is going to be put into place to try to protect the trees during the road project.”
Five of the trees are compromised and may need to be removed because of their condition, she said.
The trees date to 1954 when they were planted by the Hedermans, a long-time Jackson family.
The city of Jackson accepted sealed bids for Riverside Drive construction, a $12 million project to improve the stretch from Peachtree Street to Interstate 55, through Aug. 31.
Pete Perry, a member of the One Percent Sales Tax Commission, said the project to improve Riverside Drive will be a multi-step process.
“They’re going to dig up the street, haul in new dirt, replace the major water lines, repair the sewer, fix the storm drainage and repave it,” he said.
The live oaks that line the median of Riverside Drive are not to blame for the needed repairs, Perry said. Leaking water lines and Yazoo clay are the culprits, he said.
A corridor relied upon by neighborhood residents, students at Belhaven College, Millsaps College, Bailey APAC Middle School, Wells APAC Elementary School and Murrah High School as well as other drivers, Riverside Drive is used by about 4,300 travelers daily.
That’s according to the 2019 average annual daily traffic count from the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The traffic count relies on 48 hours of data and is adjusted using factors such as day of the week and the season of the year.
Riverside Drive has needed repairs for 20 years, but they have been delayed because of the expense of the project, Lindsay said.
The One Percent Sales Tax Commission approved the reconstruction project in 2015 but the project went nowhere because of a lack of funding.
There were concerns that the plans first drawn had unnecessary bells and whistles such as the complete redesign of the road and pedestrian features such as a walking trail on one side and a multi-use path on the other.
In 2020, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the $12.5 million first phase of the project drawn up previously by engineers would probably not be the project that is put into place. “It’s going to have to be scaled back to what’s appropriate and what works,” he said.
Perry said the last time Riverside Drive was reworked was 25 years ago.
The One Percent Sales Tax Commission oversees revenue collected by the 1 percent sales tax to fund capital projects, reconstruction/resurfacing projects, water/sewer and drainage projects