TUPELO — A section of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi could reopen by the end of the year, after being closed for repairs since early October.
The parkway’s maintenance chief, Greg Smith, told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that the project’s contractor has until Jan. 1 to finish work or face financial penalties.
“Whether or not they make it depends on the weather,” Smith said. “They need it to be dry.”
Most of the work on the 4-mile stretch in Tupelo is complete, but some remained on shoulders and ramps. Stripes also had to be painted. This was the second section of roadwork to close parts of the parkway around Tupelo in recent months.
The Natchez Trace is a scenic route that runs 444 miles from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. The closings have forced travelers to take detours.
“We split the project up so we wouldn’t have to keep the whole section closed the entire time, from July through December,” Smith said.
For most of the road, a new coat of asphalt was sufficient. Areas around potholes or where the pavement had peeled off in large pieces were milled. A machine ground off the top layers of pavement to create a level area that was rough enough to allow new asphalt to adhere. For larger problem areas, workers applied a thick layer of asphalt to an uneven section, and then leveled it.
It has been more than a decade since these sections of road had any major work. It will be at least that long before and roadbed or drainage issues are tackled. Officials said the current work should preserve the existing road for another 10-15 years.
Another project will keep a longer section of the parkway in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, and into Alabama at least partially closed until the summer.
That $40 million, 40-mile project started in October with the closure of the parkway from the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway just south of Bay Springs Lake in Mississippi to U.S. Highway 72 near Cherokee, Alabama.
The project includes rehabilitation of the main roadway, milling and overlaying ramps and pull-off areas, traffic safety improvements, and accessibility improvements. The first phase should be complete by the end of December. The next phase begins in the spring, and work is expected to end by summer.