January 31, 2014 10:32:23 AM
Pending city approval, a bid process on work to remove a sharp curve on Port Access Road is about to begin.
Columbus councilmen will likely approve a transfer of the road from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the city so the Lowndes County/Columbus Port Authority can begin bidding the road improvement project, most of which will be funded by a grant the authority received last year from the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
Port authority director John Hardy said he and his board have been wanting to reduce the curve that currently "right-angles" near Baldor for several years because it has been a safety issue. Last April, when the council agreed to match up to $33,500 of a $335,000 MDOT grant to address the problem, Hardy said two trucks carrying cargo overturned at that curve in a year's time. MDOT gave the port authority two years from when it awarded the grant last summer to complete the project. The reason for the project's delay, he said, was because the road easement was never officially transferred from the Corps to the city when the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway was built.
"When the waterway was built, all these roads that were on Corps property were transferred to either the city or county. The Corps never transferred Port Access Road to the city when they should have," Hardy said. "We could not proceed with our project because the Corps still owns the easement where the road is, even though all these years the Corps hasn't had anything to do with maintaining the road."
The Corps' real estate legal team has written a document ready for a signature if the council votes in favor of the request. After that, a statewide bidding process will begin and sealed bids will be opened in March, Hardy said. Engineering firm Neel-Schaffer's estimated project cost is $335,797.36. Hardy said the port authority also has funding set aside to contribute.
"If the bids come in low and under the amount MDOT is going to grant us, the city won't have to pay anything," he said. "If the bids come high, the city has agreed to put up to $33,500."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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