Plan doubtful for Riverside funding

By ANTHONY WARREN,

A plan to get the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID) to help fund the Riverside Drive Reconstruction Project likely won’t get off the ground.

Recently, one-percent commissioner Pete Perry proposed asking the CCID to help fund the $10.8 million project.  The move was seemingly backed by his fellow commissioners.

However, officials with the Mississippi Department of Finance Administration (DFA) say they’re unlikely to waiver from their master plan released earlier this year.

“Our focus today is on the projects that were selected in our recently completed master plan. However, we are open to a discussion with the city and the … commission regarding future funding for the Riverside Drive project,” said Chuck McIntosh, DFA spokesman.

Lawmakers established the CCID last year to help Jackson offset infrastructure costs within it. The district takes in a large swath of the capital city, including parts of Northeast Jackson, Fondren and Belhaven.

Each year, the state will divert a portion of the sales tax revenues generated in the city to fund improvements within it.

The current master plan includes eight public improvement projects.

However, despite being one of the worst roads in Jackson and being part of the CCID, Riverside Drive was not included in the plan.

Instead, the plan includes spending $2 million to repave Museum Boulevard, a street that is in relatively good condition that connects to Riverside.

Spending in the district is governed by the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, with input from an advisory panel with members appointed by state and city officials.

At a recent commission meeting, Perry proposed reaching out to DFA to potentially include Riverside as an early project.

“The CCID could make a good argument because it serves the national guard and Museum Boulevard,” he said. “There is a possibility the CCID could pick it up.”

The first phase of Riverside would cost around $10.8 million and include rebuilding the roadway from Peachtree Street to the I-55 North flyover bridge.

Work would include replacing all of the underground infrastructure, reducing the roadway from four to two lanes, adding a multi-use pathway on the north side and a sidewalk on the southside of the roadway within the project’s footprint.

Under his proposal Perry said Jackson would foot the bill for the underground infrastructure and ask the CCID to split road repaving costs down the middle.

And instead of paying for the project all at once, the commission would set aside $2.5 million a year in fiscal years 2019, 2020 and 2021 to cover costs.

“If it’s all approved and accepted, construction won’t (begin) until 2020 and it would take 16 months and carry over into 2021,” he said. “Even if it’s approved today, work would not begin until fiscal year 2020.”

Fiscal year 2020 begins October 1 and runs until September 30 of next year.

A traffic study showed Riverside is traveled by 6,000 vehicles a day.

Commissioner Jonathan Lee seemed amenable to the idea but would like to see Perry’s proposal in writing. “In theory, it sounds good to me,” he said.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, chair of the one-percent commission, agreed the proposal needed to be put in writing. He said a special meeting could be called to consider it. “I don’t think you have any opposition, but we’d like to see it in writing,” he said.

McIntosh, though, said DFA’s initial focus are the road projects already listed in the master plan. However, he said DFA would be open to discussing funding the roadway in the future.

The CCID master plan prioritizes projects affecting eight streets, including High Street, Lamar Street, President Street, Mississippi Street, North State Street, East Capitol Street, North Street and Museum Boulevard.

Projects chosen were based on several criteria, including “proximity and access to state facilities,” “stakeholder priority,” “immediate impact,” “economic and community impact,” “public health and safety,” “condition and level of service,” and “funding source.”

Streets that provide direct access to state-owned facilities receive higher scores than roads that do not. Museum Boulevard, for example, serves LeFleur’s Bluff State Park, Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and the Mississippi Children’s Museum.

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