Proposals for Riverside Drive presented

It appears a plan that would reduce Riverside Drive to two lanes and do away with its current westbound lanes was one of the more popular proposals presented to residents at a recent public hearing.

Most residents spoken to by the Sun appear to support the plan, which would replace the street’s westbound lanes with additional plantings and a multi-use path.

However, even if the plan is chosen, no funds have been set aside for the construction. Jackson doesn’t have the money, and no funds have yet been allocated by the capital city’s one-percent oversight commission.

More than 100 people attended a public hearing last week to find out about plans to redo the busy roadway.

The meeting was held at Eudora Welty Library and gave those in attendance an opportunity to see five proposals drawn up to rehab the street from the I-55 North flyover bridge to Peachtree Street.

Four of the five proposals included keeping Riverside’s popular live oaks, which run along the median, while one plan would remove the trees and add additional plantings on both sides of the street.

Three proposals call for reducing traffic to two lanes and adding sidewalks, multi-use trails or both.

One plan would leave Riverside at four lanes, maintain the live oaks and add a sidewalk on the north side of the roadway.

Copies of the plans can be found at northsidesun.com.

Margaret Cupples, a Piedmont Drive resident, liked two proposals in particular, but said at least three of them would be “big improvements over what we have now.”

She was “leaning” toward “schematic design number two.” The plan would do away with Riverside’s two westbound lanes and replace them with a 10-foot multi-use path, six-foot sidewalk, and some 19 feet of green space.

The street’s eastbound lanes would be turned into a two-way street, with an 11-foot wide eastbound and 11-foot-wide westbound lane. 

Also with the plan, the live oaks would not be touched, and new hardwood mulch would be added to protect them.

“I love the idea of some dedicated green space and protection for walkers and bicyclists, and making the car traffic just two lanes instead of four,” she said. “It’s a residential neighborhood, and these changes will help to maintain that atmosphere.”

Bill Osborne and Leo Stevens, both of Linden Place, also were OK with plan two.

Cupple’s husband, Brett, was leaning toward proposal number three.

That plan would reduce the street to two lanes, separated by the median. Unlike plan two, which would put the sidewalk and bike path on the same side of the street, plan three would have the sidewalk and multi-use path on opposite sides. Like plan two, the live oaks would remain in place.

All designs call for improving drainage, and replacing or rehabbing sewer and water lines.

 

The Greater Belhaven Foundation (GBF) isn’t supporting any plan, per se, but wants to make sure that the design chosen will help preserve the area’s tree canopy and aesthetics.

“The one that removes the existing aesthetics is the most negative in the group. All the others have benefits,” said Rob Farr, the foundation’s design chair.

Farr was referring to “schematic design number five.” In that proposal, Riverside would be reduced to two lanes and a turn lane. A turn lane would replace the median, and new trees and shrubs would be added to act as a barrier between the street and a proposed walking trail and sidewalk.

 

Those in attendance had an opportunity to view the plans, speak with engineers, city officials and an arborist, and submit comments.

The proposals were drawn up by Waggoner Engineering.

Brian Nettles, a senior project manager with the firm, said the firm will work with the city to analyze the comments and will move forward with the design work.

“We’ll pick one, or a combination of designs and move forward,” he said.

The next designs will probably be completed in the next two to three months, and will again be presented at a public hearing, he said.

All comments were due on March 15.

Riverside averages around 6,100 vehicles a day, according to Mississippi Department of Transportation traffic count maps, and is a major roadway serving the Belhaven neighborhood, Murrah High School and Power APAC. The roadway also connects downtown Jackson with LeFleur’s Bluff State Park, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and the Mississippi Children’s Museum.

Yazoo clay has ravaged the street over the years, effectively turning it into a washboard.

The first phase of construction is expected to cost around $8.8 million.

While funds for the design work were set aside from the one-percent tax, no funds have been allocated for the construction. Funds allocated for phase two of the design have been moved to other projects. 

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