Natchez Trace project could begin in 2003

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 23, 1999

A historic trail could finally end where it all began. Construction on the interim terminus of the Natchez Trace at Liberty Road could begin as soon as 2003.

Stennis Young, chief of maintenance for the Trace, said that timetable is the goal for the project.

&uot;Construction money has been committed,&uot; he said. The project would cost an estimated $25 million and could take two years to build, he said.

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The 445-mile Natchez Trace 415 of those miles are completed follows the old Indian trail from Natchez to Nashville.

Since the 1960s, the Trace was expected to end at Seargent S. Prentiss Drive, but city officials wanted to bring the historic parkway all the way to the bluffs, taking it through downtown Natchez.

&uot;Of course that’s where the historical trace began,&uot; Young said.

The proposed construction would add four miles to the existing parkway, Young said.

What that means for Natchez is more tourists headed straight for downtown, close to its Visitors Reception Center and even closer to its proposed convention center.

&uot;(Tourists) doesn’t want the Trace to stop 20 miles north of the city,&uot; said city engineer David Gardner. &uot;They want it to stop downtown.&uot;

The city will have some input in the design of the project, Gardner said, and will be mostly involved with getting motorists downtown once they get off the Trace.

A&160;four-mile section of the Trace from its current terminus north of Washington is already built, but isn’t open to the public because there isn’t a interchange for it, Young said.

While there are funding commitments through federal highway grants, the state still has to acquire the right-of-way for the project.

Young said this will be the first time the Natchez Trace has to acquire property for parkway construction.