Military Road is seeing growing pains, but those closest to the historic thoroughfare are showing patience.
Businesses have seen delays and a decrease in traffic as years-old potholes and drainage problems have given way to road crews, traffic cones and orange webbing. The work doesn”t help motorists now, but it will come April.
Columbus City Engineer Kevin Stafford, of Neel-Schaffer Engineering, is orchestrating a major reconstruction of Military Road which will address multiple problems. Crews are fixing curbs and drainage boxes before grinding down years of asphalt overlays for a complete repaving.
“We won”t be able to get rid of all the roller-coaster effect, but we”re going to do the best we can,” said Stafford.
After months of work, the overall project is only halfway done, said Stafford, who expects completion sometime in April.
And the end result may be the only major roadwork Columbus gets in 2009-10, according to Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem.
“Military is probably one of the only roads that”s going to get paved this year because it”s a federally funded road,” he said. “I hope people bear with us as we try to get the condition of the sidewalk and drainage boxes corrected.”
The drainage improvements will have an immediate effect.
The city also is looking at additional funding sources to continue road work in other areas, but presently, none is scheduled. Other projects, such as drainage work will continue.
Because the section of Military under construction is in Ward 5, Karriem has heard his share of citizen concern. But he says all wards need work.
“People are complaining about the roads, period. Not one particular road, all the roads,” he said.
But all the roads don”t have potholes worthy of warning cones.
The Greater Columbus Learning Center is just a few feet away from two potholes big enough to have traffic cones placed inside them. Ellie Graham, executive director of the learning center, said those, plus the work on the side of the road, have been a hassle.
“It”s been a challenge navigating the construction. And when they first started (road work) you never knew when the road was going to be blocked,” said Graham. “Unless you live here in the area or have to come here, people have been avoiding it.”
Mike Perkerson, owner of Military Hardware and Garden Center, said the delays caused by the road work have decreased traffic on Military. But road crews have been good about telling him when and where they”ll be working, he said.
Another concern is blind spots at corners due to the construction. Graham has seen several near misses between motorists, but no accidents yet, except one man who hit an improperly placed manhole cover.
“It ruined his tire. Blew it off the rim,” said Graham.
The driver was unharmed, but a wrecker was needed to move the vehicle.
Despite the inconvenience, Graham is pleased to see the work.
“I am really looking forward to Military Road getting a face lift. It needs to be attractive as well as serviceable,” she said.
Perkerson, who”ll celebrate 50 years of business on Military Road in December, agreed.
“I”m proud to see it,” he said. I”m glad to see my money going to something worthwhile. I think Military is going to be one of the nicest roads in town,” said Perkerson.
Military Road also is scheduled to receive some work beyond the city limits.
Lowndes County recently applied to have Military returned to state-aid road status.
District 1 Supervisor and Board President Harry Sanders said the county section of Military is in good shape and won”t need work for several years, but the county will receive more state funds for the extra state mileage.
The state brought Military up to highway specifications nine years ago before it deeded the property to the county. Sanders said the county board dropped the ball at the time by not applying for state-aid status sooner.
The request to the state is pending, but Sanders believes the road”s history assures its acceptance by the state.
According to local historian Rufus Ward, Military Road was constructed in 1820 by the U.S. Army to connect Nashville, Tenn., to New Orleans. The spot where the road crosses the Tombigbee River became Columbus.
Andrew Jackson ordered the route surveyed and “the military” road built following the War of 1812 to transport troops, but it was never used for that purpose.
By the time of the Civil War, parts of the road had fallen into disuse; it is unknown when Military Road became its official name.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.