Work on the widening of Louisville Street is behind schedule according to Starkville City Engineer Edward Kemp, and news that the construction will continue is drawing mixed reactions from business owners on the stretch of road.
The project, which began in February and is being handled by Gregory Construction of Columbus, will likely reach its original tentative goal of finishing this fall, but, according to Kemp, will not meet the September 9 contract time.
“I’m just not sure if he is going to be able to beat that,” he said. “That’s really only based on seeing the current state and the progress they have made, though.”
As one of the most traveled roads in Starkville, one that includes a mix of residential and commercial buildings, Louisville Street desperately needed a facelift.
Alleviating traffic congestion and increasing pedestrian facilities are the two main goals of the $1.2 million project, which includes widening the street from two lanes to three, adding a middle turn lane between Lynn Lane and Yellow Jacket Drive, the construction of a sidewalk on the west side of the road and the addition of bicycle lanes on both sides. The road will also be resurfaced and several new curbs and gutters will be installed.
Elbert Kimbrell, manager of Skate Odyssey, said the whole situation has been a little hectic, but that both Gregory Construction and Neel Schaffer, who has handled architectural duties, have done a tremendous job keeping him updated.
“They had to bust my only drive-way out, but they told me what they were going to do and they did it exactly how they said they would,” Kimbrell said. “They update me all the time, and the Schaffer guy is out here every day. I told them, just don’t let me not be able to get my customers in here.”
Shay Bradford, who manages Starkville Discount Liquor, said she was also pleased with the updates she received while the construction was going on in front of her lot, but that since they have moved down the road, the updates have ceased.
Bradford said she is definitely ready for the work to be finished, but that she is not particularly bothered by the construction.
She said her customers are less understanding, though, based on lower sales.
“A lot of our customers have gone elsewhere,” Bradford said. “They are going anywhere but here, thanks to the good ole mess they have out there.”
Kimbrell pointed to the weather in July as the main reason for their slowed schedule.
“They have had a lot of bad luck, a lot of rain in July, especially,” Kimbrell said. “For a week and a half they could hardly do anything. They would have been finished with my driveway a month ago if it hadn’t rained so much.”
Skate Odyssey sees a lot of business during the summer months, especially from daycares and church groups, said Kimbrell, who has managed the Skate Odyssey in Starkville since 1995, and even though the recent construction as been a burden, the skating rink has never had to close.
Kimbrell did say he has only had access to one lane of his driveway all summer, and as the only entrance to the parking lot, this has been an issue.
“Buses have been tough to get in, but we have managed,” he said.
With Starkville High School beginning classes Tuesday and Mississippi State University starting on Aug. 20, traffic on the road during peak hours could easily be doubled from the amount during the summer, making Gregory Construction’s work that much more difficult.
When complete the project will connect sidewalks from that area of town to downtown, the university and the north side of Highway 182, making the city as a whole much more accessible by foot and increase safety for those who decide to walk.
“It’s taken a while to get to this point, but hopefully some of these projects are starting to come to fruition,” Kemp said. “This is really a critical link to tie it all in together.”
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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