Agencies divide duties for Trace extension

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 27, 2000

NATCHEZ — Plans for extending the Natchez Trace into downtown are entering the final leg of a journey begun more than 60 years ago.

Representatives from federal, state and local agencies met Wednesday at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center to divvy up project responsibilities and set tentative deadlines.

The meeting focused on acquiring land needed to extend the Trace from St. Catherine Creek to Liberty Road. Between six to eight miles of road are left to be constructed, including the stretch from neighboring Washington to St. Catherine Creek, which already has been acquired.

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City Attorney Walter Brown said the city is responsible for acquiring all land for rights-of-way by October 2002.

&uot;That’s really not a long period of time&uot; when taken in context of legal procedures and engineering work that will have to be performed, Brown said.

In its last session, the Legislature approved a bill to let $8.5 million in bonds to fund the land acquisition. The city will be acting as an agent for the Mississippi Department of Transportation in acquiring the rights-of-way.

&uot;We’re agents of MDOT, or subcontractors, you could say,&uot; City Engineer David Gardner said.

City officials have known for some time they would be responsible for right-of-way acquisition, but Gardner said he learned from the meeting he would also need to compile descriptions for surveying, perform environmental tasks and demolish buildings in the Trace’s path.

&uot;This meeting was good because now I have a better understanding of what my part in the project is,&uot; Gardner said.

Dubbed as a &uot;reaffirmation of commitment&uot; by Wendell Simpson, National Park Service, all attendees agreed the meeting also helped to further solidify cooperation between the various agencies.

The Trace extension project is tentatively scheduled for a completion date of 2006. The group will hold another meeting Sept. 6.