Sisk Avenue, West Oxford Loop update
With the funding in place and a signed agreement between Oxford and Lafayette County, progress on two new roads to provide more connectivity within the city and county is moving along at a slow albeit steady pace.
Public Works Director Bart Robinson said the city is waiting on the environmental study to be completed on the West Oxford Loop extended to connect with College Hill road. While 80 percent of the proposed road is in the county, the city offered to pay half of the expenses to extend the road that is estimated to cost about $7 million.
The county agreed to partner with the city to cover the other half of the costs. While talks of extending the road went on for years, and city officials dubbed the proposed extension the Toby Tubby Parkway, nothing had been done other than an environmental study back in 2005. But when FNC Park was built, traffic heading to the park doubled as Oxford’s population also increased by 26 percent since 2005. Construction in 2016 Robinson said another environmental study is being performed which will determine the possible impact to the environment where the new road would be constructed.
“We hope to get that report back around February,” Robinson said last week. “After that, we can contact property owners and start land acquisition.” Robinson estimated that if the report is back in February, construction on the road could begin in the summer of 2016. “Obviously, we could end up in some big battle over property acquisition, but barring that, we can be ready by the summer to start on construction,” Robinson said.
Across town, the other future road will connect folks living in the northeast section of Oxford and Lafayette County to University Avenue and Highway 6. Sisk Avenue is planned to be extended east, through the electric power lines and connect with either University Avenue or Highway 6.
Robinson said the city is working with the Mississippi Department of Transportation to come up with a solution on how to connect the road to either Sisk or University and how to connect all three.
“MDOT may not necessarily dictate that University Avenue must connect to the new road, Robinson said. “We’re looking at several options — a roundabout, a split or a frontage road. We’ve sent MDOT a dozen different ideas and they sent back more than a dozen. The geometry, because of the tight space and the requirements that they have on the spacing and stacking distance, is making it very difficult.” Robinson said while most of the Sisk extension design is “straight forward,” the two intersections of where the extension begins and ends is a bit of a sticking point.
“Once we get something MDOT can live with then we can move forward,” he told the Oxford Board of Aldermen recently during a work session.
The city and county packaged the two roads together that have a combined cost of about $14 million. The city raised the ad valorem tax by 1 mill this year and will raise it 2 mills next year to help cover the cost of the bond payment for the roads. The supervisors have committed to the roads but have not yet voted on how they would be paying for them. The Mississippi Legislature voted to give Lafayette County $3 million toward the construction of West Oxford Loop. Another quiet partner has also been named in helping to secure the $3 million — the University of Mississippi. While the university has not given actual dollars toward the construction of the roads, the university worked with the state legislature to secure the funds.