At the beginning of October, the City of Starkville Board of Aldermen announced that the city is moving forward with a project to add sidewalks to sections of Highway 12. This project, which has been in the works since spring, finally had a bid approved, allowing for construction to begin.
According to a report from the Board of Aldermen, the city has the goal of adding around 8,200 feet of sidewalk along Highway 12, prioritizing several sections that add up to about 4,000 feet. Construction of these prioritized sections is expected to begin between late October and early November.
According to the Board of Aldermen release, a few of the primary, prioritized sections where the sidewalk is planned for construction are the Spring Street intersection with Highway 12, Avenue of Patriots to Taylor Street and near Lindbergh Boulevard, the longest section of which is the connection of Avenue of Patriots to Taylor Street, totaling 1,669 feet. This large section is intended to connect the area near the Westwood neighborhood to the shopping center containing Kroger.
The winning bid of $272,600 came from Simmons Erosion Control, Inc., the company that was responsible for the successful recent addition of sidewalks and bike lanes along Locksley Way, according to the Board of Aldermen's agenda. The construction costs for this project will come from the remainder of a Mississippi Department of Transportation grant, which was also used for the addition of the medians on Highway 12.
Edward Kemp, Starkville City Engineer, said the push for the sidewalk project came from the city’s desire to improve connectivity between the university and the city and create safer environments for pedestrians. As pedestrians are already using the areas in which the sidewalk construction is planned, the city wants to provide safer infrastructure for them to use along the busy highway.
Although the sidewalk addition is planned to ease traffic and connectivity issues, students and community members have expressed concerns regarding the traffic along Highway 12 that the construction will cause. However, Kemp explained there are regulations and plans in place to ease the traffic and detours that may result from the construction.
“There is a traffic control plan included in the plans with specific guidelines on how to manage the traffic in accordance to the manual for uniform traffic control devices,” Kemp said, “There will be advanced notice signage and we will try to do a good job of notifying the public through different communication methods to let them know when (construction) is going to occur.”
On the other hand, some students expressed strong support and excitement for the addition of the sidewalks. Eleanor Jenkins, a sophomore educational psychology major, commented, as a student without a car, on how beneficial the new sidewalks will be to students who generally rely on bikes or the SMART buses for non-campus connecting routes.
“I don’t even go to the grocery store regularly, it depends on when I can get rides. But, to be on a schedule to know I can access (the grocery store) on my own, that’s independence,” Jenkins said. “Oftentimes the buses are unreliable, and getting rides with friends is great, but schedules don’t always match up. So, it’s just a little bit more independence.”
Although the sidewalk project has been approved by the city and construction is scheduled to start within the month, there will continue to be public hearings at City Hall as the project develops. In the meantime, as construction begins, Taylor Wright, a senior animal and dairy sciences major, believes it is important to focus on the future benefits that will come from the new sidewalks.
“I think it is important for us to look forward to the future of how we want to see Starkville develop,” Wright said. “At the time that they are building the sidewalks, it will seem like a big deal, but in two or five or ten years, it will just be a nice and safe addition to Highway 12."