By NATHAN GREGORY
Construction is set to begin on a two-lane stretch of Louisville Street to expand it to three lanes. The project, which will be mostly funded by federal highway dollars, is tentatively scheduled for completion early this fall. The Starkville Board of Aldermen and city transportation commission selected Columbus-based Gregory Construction when bids were taken Nov. 14.
The total cost of the project is estimated at just over $2 million, $550,000 of which will be paid by the city of Starkville. Federal highway funding will pay the remaining balance. The notice to proceed on the project was issued Jan. 11.
City Engineer Edward Kemp said the project will expand the section of Louisville Street between Lynn Lane and Yellowjacket Drive.
“Currently there is a three-lane section of roadway from Yellowjacket to Highway 12 and there’s a three-way section of roadway from Lynn Lane down to Academy Drive. This is the segment in between that is just a two-lane. When the project gets finished we’ll have a three-lane roadway all the way from Academy to Highway 12,” he said. “The project will involve three lanes of traffic with one going in either direction. In the middle you’ll have that center turn lane, so you can turn left into businesses or residences, and instead of traffic backed up on the through lanes while waiting for those cars to turn, they can get in this turn lane that will allow the traffic to flow better. This definitely increases the efficiency of the roadway, allows for more vehicles and allows for easier ingress and egress out of businesses and properties there.”
The roadway will consist of two 11-foot travel lanes going south and north as well as a 12-foot turn lane. Outside of each travel lane will be 4-foot bicycle lanes as well as a curb and gutter. Also included in the project are an 8-foot multi-purpose sidewalk and stormwater drainage improvements; the latter, Kemp said, will replace undersized, old pipes.
“A lot of the pipes are in need of replacement, so we’re doing an overhaul on all of the storm drainage in that area,” Kemp said. “It’s expensive, but it will last for a long time and will be a worthwhile investment.”
Kemp said along with making the section easier for motorists to navigate, the project will make the stretch of road more pedestrian-friendly.
“Along this specific section of corridor you have Starkville High School. If you go out there right now at pretty much any given time you can see people walking up and down shoulders of Louisville Street,” he said. “There’s a large subdivision that has two primary entrances off this section of roadway. We have residents who live up and down the corridor. We have several businesses that operate up and down the corridor. I think there is a great opportunity for more people to walk safely either to school or businesses from their homes.”
Kemp said the project will also make the section more aesthetically pleasing.
“One of the things the board was very interested in was making sure that the roadway would not only be functional for vehicles and pedestrians, but I think there was special attention to make sure it looks good. What we’ve done on this project is put a grass strip along the entire length of sidewalk and roadway which will allow for landscaping and future tree planning,” Kemp said. “We have two places where we’ll have some islands where you can plant trees and provide some canopy. I think it will improve the visual appearance of the roadway.”
Kemp said drivers can begin to expect delays soon.
“There will be traffic control measures in place during the life of the project, so there will be advance warning signs. If for whatever reason the contractor needs to close the road down to one lane, there will be flag men and barricades to make sure it’s a safe work environment both for the workers and the traveling public,” he said. “Access to business and residences will be maintained through the life of the project. (Drivers) can expect delays and slower times to go through there. We want to encourage people to use alternate routes if possible.”
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said the corridor will be much easier to navigate once the project is finished.
“This is a project we’ve been very excited about for a long time,” Wiseman said. “It’s going to greatly enhance our ability to move traffic through the southern portion of Starkville.”