City Informs on State Street Improvement Project

Rendering: Neel Schaffer

Rendering: Neel Schaffer

From FindItInFondren.com

The City of Jackson held an informal information session in Fondren on Thursday to share more with the public about the upcoming State Street Corridor Improvements Project.

Funded by a $16.5 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation last October, the project calls for comprehensive improvements on State Street from Hartfield Street to Sheppard Road. Those include making the two mile stretch more ADA, pedestrian and bicycle friendly through the use of a multi-use path and sidewalks; improving environmental impacts of storm water runoff; improving water and sewer infrastructure; better traffic signalization; a road diet; landscaping; and road surface repaving.

The project will use funds from the 1% municipal sales tax plus funds from a 2015 TIGER Discretionary Grant Capital Investment awarded to the City of Jackson following the “Greening of the Gateways” application.

The session was a chance to view renderings of street sections that have different constraints and plans based on right-of-way. Jonathan Kiser, an engineer with Neel Schaffer and a liaison with the City of Jackson on Jackson-based projects spoke to us about two of the often asked about and key components of the work.

Utilities are said to be a priority in the project. “The City resurfaced State Street from Woodrow Wilson to Senecca Avenue in 2011. Based on the condition of that road today, simply resurfacing State Street would not be a good investment so I don’t anticipate that being the case with this. This project is funded as one large bundled project that includes utilities and road reconstruction and utilities as the first phase. The funding limits in the scope of the project for utility reconstruction seem generous. Good money on top of bad utilities is what cities are trying to avoid.”

Cyclists will get a dedicated and detached path. “Are you a cyclist?” Kaiser asked. “Would you get on a bike on State Street today?” (We answered no.) “That’s the point. There are some roadways, if speeds are low enough and the volume is low, where a lot of riders are comfortable to ride, sharing a lane. But I’m not one of those who wants to put my life or my children’s lives on a road carrying 12,000 – 15,000 vehicles a day at 40 miles per hour and higher. Looking at our options and right-of-way, a multi-use path, separated from travel lanes, is preferred for cyclists.

Right now, there are some areas with no sidewalks in the corridor. That’s why we’re doing this. We’re trying to reach people who would use the facility. Two to five percent of cyclists are willing to ride a bike in a lane with vehicles, sharing the road. As you have a bike lane beside the travel lanes, you probably increase to 15 to 20 percent. A detached facility, like the one planned for this project… you are getting up into 40 percent or higher of cyclists who are comfortable riding.”

Where and when will actual construction begin? Kiser says the project is in its very beginning stages. “Today, we’re trying to give more information to the public about the project as a whole,” he said. “Further into the design phase, we’ll know more about exactly where things are going and what properties will be affected.”

The City of Jackson has a contract for design work and a commitment from the federal government. Federal money is flowing through the State while the city is committed with the matching funds required and agreements have been signed. The project, Kiser said, is funded and he is confident it will be completed. “This is a good project. There’s plenty of traffic on State Street and, as we have incidents on I-55, people really depend on it. There’s a real benefit for many for this corridor to be improved.”

The State Street Corridor Improvement Project is tentatively set for completion set in 2020.

© 2016, Fondren Renaissance Foundation