Natchez fails to get grant for Forks to Freedom

Published 7:16 am Sunday, June 25, 2023

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NATCHEZ — If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

That’s Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson’s attitude after learning Natchez was not successful in its first attempt to earn a RAISE grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the Forks to Freedom Corridor, leading from D’Evereux Drive up St. Catherine Street to downtown Natchez.

“We have given this grant such a valiant effort, including a very recent trip to Washington,” Gibson said.

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In Mississippi, the cities of Laurel and Meridian submitted successful grant applications and will share in $1.5 billion of federal funds that were made available for projects across the country.

Laurel earned $24,882,500 for improvements in its downtown that include road reconstruction, a new roundabout, lighting, landscaped medians, new ADA compliant sidewalks and shared-use lane markings for bicycles.

Meridian will receive $3.5 million to complete planning for North Hills Street that will include road widening, adding pedestrian and bicycle facilities, adding turn lanes, reconfiguring and realigning existing intersections, installing traffic signals, rehabilitating the existing pavement and providing retaining walls.

Gibson said he thinks the Natchez application was in the top three considered in the state, and the USDOT only funded two Mississippi projects.

“We believe we did make the top three and it gives us comfort to know that Meridian and Laurel, who were successful this year, had made multiple applications for the RAISE grant in the past,” he said.

Russ Bryan, landscape architect with Neel-Shaffer and who worked on the grant application, said both cities had the opportunity to tweak their applications for the grant this year, correcting things that counted against them in previous applications.

“We by no means intend to back away from my plan to develop this important corridor of our city. We will seek conversation with the Department of Transportation and work with our consultant on a debriefing and make our application, which we believe was in the top 3 in the state this year, even stronger next year,” Gibson said.

Gibson said the silver lining to the RAISE grant news he learned Friday is that two weeks ago he had a very successful series of meetings in Washington, D.C., pertaining to a federal earmark for the proposed Hiram Revels Plaza at Dr. Martin Luther King and St. Catherine streets.

“We will continue working on that in earnest in hopes that the Hiram Revels project could be under way next year,” he said.