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South overpass once again gets city attention

An overpass through an historic neighborhood is once againgetting city officials’ consideration as an alternative to a closedWarren Avenue bridge.

The proposed overpass, which would go east from the SouthJackson Street and Natchez Avenue intersection, came up Tuesdaynight during a special meeting of the mayor and board of aldermen.The overpass had been considered a few years ago but was notheavily pursued.

City Engineer Carl Ray Furr said the county has state bridgeprogram money for a bridge project. However, the city would beresponsible for purchasing needed right of way, whether it be for anew Warren Avenue bridge or another project.

Given limited Warren Avenue options, Ward 3 Alderman the Rev.Jerry L. Wilson expressed support for a south overpass project.

“Since we already got the money, I think we ought to pursue it,”Wilson said.

Ward 4 Alderman Bob Massengill said a resident who lives nearthe proposed bridge intersection expressed hope that the project isnot pursued. When the project was considered earlier, opponentscited concerns about increased traffic through one of the city’smost historic neighborhoods.

Furr discussed the situation surrounding the Warren Avenuebridge. He indicated the bridge is not repairable because of itsage, and building a new bridge would require extensive right ofway.

“You have to buy two houses, and that’s a real problem,” Furrsaid.

An arched culvert was another option for Warren Avenue, but Furrsaid railroad officials rejected that idea. The engineer said therailroad had had problems with arched culverts in the past.

“We gave up on that because they were adamant,” Furr said.

A new south overpass off Natchez Avenue would require thepurchase of one home. But City Attorney Joe Fernald said that wouldlikely require eminent domain proceedings.

“They’re not going to give up their house,” Fernald said.

Fernald asked city officials to delay a decision until a FieldLark Lane sewer system project is completed. That project hasrequired some eminent domain action on the part of the city.

City officials took no action on the bridge project situationand moved on to other meeting business.

Furr also updated officials on plans to use some leftoverfederal funds following completion of the Industrial Park Roadoverpass. With that project coming in under budget, about $500,000was left and the city was allowed to keep the funds and do somerelated improvement projects.

Those projects include new lighting on the overpass, streetwidening and a turn lane at the Manufacturer’s Boulevard andIndustrial Park Road intersection, and new traffic signals at theNorth Jackson Street intersection. Furr said the Jackson Streetturn signals would address some traffic flow problems in thatarea.

“In peak periods, that area just backs up,” Furr said.

Furr said work on loop roads associated with the overpass shouldbegin soon after utility companies agreed to move some poles.Officials should be seeing some activity on the three subsequentprojects in the next 90 days or so, Furr said.

“We got a pretty good return on the federal dollars we got forthe overpass,” Furr said.