August 23, 2018 11:05:58 AM
Alex Holloway - [email protected]
City, county and Mississippi State University officials are hoping to soon get the go-ahead to move forward with a pedestrian and bicycle path project that will link the Lynn Lane multi-use path from South Montgomery to the university.
Saunders Ramsey of Neel-Schaffer, the project engineer for the Locksley Way project, said the plan is a continuation of the multi-use path, with accommodations for limited space along Locksley Way.
"If you go way back it's always been the plan to go down Locksley Way," he said. "Early in the Lynn Lane path, we ran into utilities problems and right-of-way issues and that's why we terminated it at the South Montgomery-Locksley Way intersection."
Ramsey said there's not enough room along the side of Locksley Way to accommodate a 10-foot multi-use path with two feet of clearance, so the project will use a five-foot sidewalk with an eight-foot protected bike lane in the road.
"The walking path will begin on Montgomery Street and as you go in front of the church it will stay a multi-use path for pedestrians and cyclists," Ramsey said. "Once we pass the church or the church driveway, that's where we start crunching down on space. We're going to move the bikes into the street, but we'll have a pedestrian sidewalk."
The bike and pedestrian paths will reunite to a single multi-use path before turning south on Blackjack Road. That path will continue to the intersection with Stone Boulevard. Ramsey said it will be far enough off of the road to account for a future widening of Blackjack Road without disturbance.
The first of its kind in Mississippi
The new project brings a number of firsts for Mississippi. The two-way protected bike lane is the first of its kind in the state. The path will also feature a two-stage left turn box for cyclists to use at intersections. The box allows cyclists to make left turns across traffic at intersections by providing a clearly-marked point out of the way of motor traffic to wait until a green light or until the intersection is clear at a non-signalized intersection.
Ramsey said the project, which was initially expected to already be under construction, had to go through extra approval processes because the Mississippi Department of Transportation was unfamiliar with the two-stage design.
"It's something we're proud to introduce in Starkville," Ramsey said. "It's something that's never been done in the state of Mississippi but has been done all over the world. We just have not done it here and MDOT was not familiar with it."
The project is now expected to go to bid in the fall, with construction beginning in the spring and an anticipated completion next summer.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said she's very excited about the project for a few reasons. She said it's a way to continue strengthening the city's relationship with the county and university. It also will enhance accessibility for alternative travel methods in the city.
"This is particularly special because it is a type of project we want to have in multiple places around town," Spruill said. "It's a prototype for the state and city, and I think it enhances the multipurpose path. This is something that's very attractive and user-friendly, and helps us focus on multiple ways to get around town. I think that's exactly where we want to go for the future."
District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller, through whose district the project runs, also approves.
"This will be a full connection that will connect students or anybody that wants to be mobile from the university all the way to the Sportsplex and McKee Park," she said. "It's an important part of growing the alternative transit system and supporting options for people to get outside and have places to exercise as well."
MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw also praised the project, in an issued statement.
"Mississippi State University is excited about the close three-way partnership between the university, the city and the county," he said. "It's a plus for all three partners and for the taxpayers. So many of our students, faculty and staff live in this area, and it gives them a great option for coming to and from campus."