Public Hearing - Proposals for Riverside Drive reconstruction to be revealed
Northsiders will have a chance to learn more and offer input on a much anticipated, yet controversial, project planned for Belhaven.
A public meeting has been slated for Wednesday, March 8, at Eudora Welty Library, to discuss the first phase of the Riverside Drive Reconstruction Project.
The first phase of improvements will focus on the roadway from the I-55 North flyover bridge to Peachtree Street.
Five or six conceptual drawings are expected to be presented at the meeting, which will have a “come and go” format.
Once a plan is chosen, the future of the project remains uncertain. Jackson does not have the funding in place to pay for the work, and the city’s one-percent oversight commission, which oversees how Jackson spends a temporary one-percent sales tax, has also not put money aside for its construction.
The plans were not ready for release at press time. Proposals include options with multiple lanes and proposals with and without the street’s live oaks, said Brian Nettles, senior project manager with Waggoner Engineers.
“We’re looking at all options,” he said. “We’re making an effort to have bicycle and pedestrian features in each concept.”
Waggoner was brought on to draw up proposals for the first phase last year. His team includes two arborists, including one from the Mississippi State Extension Service.
“One, if not both, will be at the meeting,” Nettles said.
Residents will be able to offer comments at the meeting. Those who are unable to attend or who would like more time to draw up a response to the plans will likely have an opportunity to do so online, he said.
Last week, Waggoner was working with IMS Engineers, the city’s one-percent program manager, to discuss how online comments could be submitted.
The design work is being paid for with funds from the city’s one-percent. The city’s one-percent oversight commission included both phases of Riverside in the first-year master plan.
However, funds for designing the second phase were moved from the project to use elsewhere, without the commission’s consent.
Last week, the Sun reported that around $700,000 was moved from two North Jackson projects to pay for cost overruns on the Robinson Road Bridge Replacement Project.
The funds had been set aside for the second phase of the Eastover Drive project and design work for the second phase of Riverside Drive.
The commissioners allocated $161,000 and $548,000 for the improvements respectively.
The project has come under fire for the city’s initial proposal, which included tearing down the street’s live oaks.
The trees line the median and have become one of Riverside’s most popular features.
Waggoner CEO Joe Waggoner told the Sun previously that he believed the majority of the trees could be saved.
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 oaks could be safe, regardless of what plan is chosen, if funds for the work are not available.
The first phase of construction is expected to cost around $8.8 million.
However, the tax only generates between $13 million and $14 million a year.
Mayor Tony Yarber had proposed using one-percent funds to leverage a $90 million bond to help pay for projects. The Jackson City Council was expected to discuss the proposal at a February 27 special meeting.
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