Visitors center honored

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 5, 2002

NATCHEZ &045; The Natchez Visitor Reception Center is the nation’s top intermodal transportation center, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

The agency recently named the center as the recipient of one of nine Excellence in Highway Design Awards &045; specifically, in the intermodal transportation facilities category.

&uot;These award winners share a common approach,&uot; agency Administrator Mary E. Peters said in a written statement.

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&uot;They are providing safe, efficient transportation projects that, at the same time, are sensitive to the human and the natural environment.&uot;

The almost $8.4 million center, which opened in June 1998, was paid for with $4.06 million in federal transportation funds, $3 million from the National Park Service, $1.18 million in city funds and $125,000 from Natchez Coca-Cola.

The city requested and received through the state Department of Transportation federal transportation funds to build the center &uot;in order to accommodate (Natchez’s tourism) growth and meet future demands,&uot; said MDOT Executive Director Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown.

Today, the center serves a focal point for tourists, getting them onto city trolleys and buses and even on foot to tour the city, Brown said.

Both city and MDOT officials said the award is quite an honor.

&uot;Any time we receive national recognition, it’s good for the city,&uot; Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said. &uot;Hopefully, it will bring more people to our city.&uot;

&uot;It’s quite a prestigious award&uot; for a project that &uot;took a lot of cooperation from many different entities to achieve,&uot; said Jim Moak, now MDOT ports director, who formerly worked to plan the project.

City Engineer David Gardner also said cooperation from many different levels of government was the key to getting the job done.

&uot;Each partner shared a vision that all branches of visitors services could be combined into a state-of-the-art facility that enhances tourism on all levels and Š acts as a historic preservation tool for the downtown Natchez area,&uot; Gardner said.