Natchez Trails to be built soon

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 27, 2009

NATCHEZ — The planning phase of the Natchez Trails Project is approximately 90 percent complete.

City Engineer David Gardner said that means, after approvals, the project’s construction can hopefully begin sometime this summer.

Mississippi Department of Transportation officials will walk the proposed downtown walking trails soon. They must offer approval of the plan before construction starts.

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Approval must come from the Mississippi Department of Transportation for the walking trails.

Gardner said in a few weeks, MDOT officials will walk the proposed project, hence kicking off the approval phase.

Next, plans and designs will need the MDOT stamp of approval.

Gardner said he’s not sure how long the process will last.

“It really depends on how quick the process goes through MDOT,” he said before construction starts. “Typically, those types of things take several months to get approved,” Gardner said.

Originally, Gardner said he was aiming for construction to begin early summer, but anticipates at least two or three months of approvals.

He said he hopes the city and its yet-to-be-determined contractor can take advantage of the warm, non-rainy summer months for construction.

Plans include walking trails running from Broadway Street to High Street and Rankin Street on the north end of town.

To the south, the trail will begin at Broadway, run over to Washington Street and up to Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

Trails at the bluff will run along Broadway and down to Silver Street, Roth Hill Road and Learned’s Mill Road.

A timber bridge will course through the wooded area on the lower portion of the bluff.

Along the 5.6 miles of trail trail will be historic markers and arrow emblems embedded in the sidewalk to keep walkers on track.

With the many facets of the project come many facets of construction — sidewalk repair and widening, sign erection and more.

Gardner said multiple crews will be working at once for each part of the construction phase.

Gardner said the city is also working right-of-way issues.

For example, the portion of railroad on Canal Street is owned by the railroad company. Plans include running the trail over that section, and the city needs that right-of-way.

“That’s kind of slowed us down,” Gardner said. “We have to get that issue worked out, because that definitely impacts where it goes. If we don’t get the right-of-way, we’ll have to redraw (the trail) and move it somewhere else.”

The construction phase will last between seven and eight months once it begins.