MLK street extension draws fire

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 20, 1999

When the Natchez Metro Planning Commission meets at 5:15 p.m. today, members will likely be greeted again by residents who oppose extending Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

The proposed extension to John R. Junkin Drive has been a recommendation in the city’s comprehensive plan, which looks 20 years into Natchez’s future and was developed in cooperation with Central Mississippi Planning and Development District.

At two public hearings this summer and fall, residents have complained that the extension would hurt the environment and add even more traffic to an already crowded Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

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&uot;The proposed extension will have a devastating impact on the historic district and preservation and will be detrimental to the environment,&uot; said Mike Henry, who lives at 206 S. Martin Luther King St.

But City Engineer David Gardner said the proposed extension could help alleviate traffic on Canal and Homochitto streets and would not have an impact on the environment.

&uot;Our traffic counts indicate increases in traffic on Homochitto, Canal and Martin Luther King,&uot; Gardner said. &uot;It won’t take long before some of those streets reach their capacity.&uot;

Gardner said the proposed extension – part of his &uot;mile-long&uot; wish list – would be one piece of the plan to alleviate traffic downtown. &uot;It won’t be the sole solution,&uot; he said.

Gardner emphasized that the planning commission’s vote today is not a request to approve the project – it is a recommendation to approve the entire plan, which also includes goals, objectives and policies; a land use plan; a transportation plan; and a public facilities plan.

And all of the ideas in the plan – such as a new sports complex and completion of the Natchez Trace to the bluff – would still have to go through other channels of approval. The city would also have to have the necessary funding for all of the projects.

&uot;If we don’t get some outside funding it’ll never be built,&uot; said Gardner, who could not estimate when in the next 20 years the road extension might be built.

Once the planning commission votes its recommendation for approval or disapproval of the comprehensive plan, the board of aldermen will vote on whether to accept it.

At last week’s public hearing, planning commission Chairman Deborah Martin said the commission probably will not include the Martin Luther King extension in its recommendation because there is such opposition to it.

&uot;Ultimately the planning commission vote is a recommendation,&uot; Henry said. &uot;We hope the aldermen will accept their recommendation.&uot;

The planning commission meets at 5:15 p.m. today in city council chambers on South Pearl Street.