Fortification Renewal Set for 2011


Plans for a more pedestrian-friendly Fortification Street are moving forward.

Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. said he expects construction to begin on the renewal of Fortification Street project by early next year.

"It'll be reconstruction--much more than repaving," Johnson said during a Sept. 29 Jackson Free Press editorial board meeting. "We have to relocate utilities. We're downsizing from a four-lane (road) to three lanes in some areas, and we had to acquire some easements for construction. The last (easement) is in the process of being acquired right now. The next step is utility relocation."

In June, the Jackson City Council authorized $66,174 in payments to property owners along the aging, pot-holed street for temporary easements allowing the city to store industrial equipment. Johnson said the work will make the street more pedestrian friendly and slow down traffic, even though the street has, for decades, served as a commuter thoroughfare. Johnson said the city will move power lines to accommodate wider sidewalks, which could calm traffic.

City spokesman Chris Mims said the project costs $15.5 million and will take less than 20 months to complete. The city had $8.4 million on hand in June for the project from a 2003 bond issue, a federal earmark and a 2003 federal highway-safety bill. The city also received an additional $4 million from the Mississippi Development Authority this year, Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon said.

Mark G. Bailey, senior engineering manager for project designer Neel-Schaffer, said the three-lane style of the road will occupy the section of Fortification Street between Jefferson and Greymont streets.

"The lighting will be installed by Entergy and will look much like the lighting on Highland Colony Parkway," Bailey said, referring to upright, globe-style lighting depicted in a company rendering.

Bailey said the city will increase sidewalk size between 5 and 8 feet wide, in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards, depending on their location. The city also plans to enlarge and move water and sewer lines--some more than 70 years old. The city will continue street milling and paving from Jefferson to the Canadian National-Illinois Central railroad bridge near Farish Street, and will replace cable traffic signals with traffic signals that use a wireless motor-vehicle detection system.

Intersections will also feature pedestrian-activated light signals and a video-surveillance connection to the city's Traffic Management Center, on State Street, to provide crime-detection service and emergency-service responses to potential problem situations.

The project has been in the works for almost 10 years, lagging because of the priorities of other mayoral administrations and budget shortfalls.

"We first started talking about this project in August of 2001," said Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation Executive Director Virgi Lindsay. "Visionary public projects like this just take time."

Lindsay said the Jackson City Council voted to change the zoning of the Fortification Street area from historic to mixed-use in 2005, allowing businesses to create combination projects containing both business and residential work. Lindsay said she expected businesses to begin taking advantage of the renovation and the zoning soon after the city completed construction.


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