April 23, 2013 10:00:41 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
Starkville is proceeding with a traffic study to analyze one of the main city-Mississippi State University thoroughfares, and officials say the project will help with future grant applications to improve the area's pedestrian connections.
Last week, aldermen unanimously approved a $12,000, Neel-Shafer study of the Russell Street corridor to determine future needs as growth continues in the area. Concepts to be reviewed include a possibility of a three-lane modification from Lampkin Street to Miss. Highway 12; bike and sidewalk improvements; and a roundabout at the highway intersection, documents from Tuesday's meeting state.
The study is expected to take four weeks.
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said the results of the study will help specifically tailor future city applications for federal transportation enhancement grants managed through the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Hopefully, he said, the city will be able to provide sidewalks on each side of the road all the way to its terminus at Starkville Fire Station No. 1.
"The Russell Street corridor is increasingly becoming a primary gateway to MSU. Pedestrian connectivity is an important part of the overall connectivity from downtown to the university," he said. "Another major driver for this is the Mill at MSU project. As that gets closer and closer to becoming a reality, it will become an anchor for the university-city connection because of where it sits. It's one of the most significant projects for Starkville in the past decade, and a project like that is a transformational one that provides a compelling reason (for MDOT) to look at the entire corridor itself."
Officials are already addressing pedestrian connectivity issues in the area through a smaller project. Starkville Main Street Association is developing pedestrian improvement plans for the area around the Lampkin Street fire station park. A $10,000 Mississippi Development Authority grant will help fund improvements.
The proposed work list includes sidewalk, crosswalk and bike path improvements on Lampkin Street from Montgomery Street to the Russell Street intersection and the construction of a new pedestrian sidewalk which will run parallel with the train tracks from University Drive to the Montgomery-Lampkin streets intersection.
Those improvements, Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO Jennifer Gregory said, fall in line with the results of previous long-range planning initiatives. The Russell-Lampkin-Montgomery area saw new developments and redevelopments over the past years, including the old Borden Milk plant's renovation into the Central Station development and the ongoing construction of Renasant Bank.
"The walkability and 'bikeability' of a community is certainly something that speaks to the overall health promotion you see in a community. I think our emphasis on both contributed greatly to our designation as a Mississippi Healthy Hometown," Wiseman said. "It's also one of those barometers that people gauge the community as a place to live or with its tourism. I think our numbers speak for themselves.
"Starkville is now one of the fastest growing cities in Mississippi, and I think walk-ability and 'bike-ability' are part of package," he added. "Connectivity has been a primary goal of this administration. We've made some progress, but we've got a long way to go."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch