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City approves University’s request to close road, with stipulations

The University’s request to close Gertrude Ford Boulevard this summer for a construction project was granted by Oxford’s Board of Aldermen, but with certain stipulations attached. During Tuesday’s regular meeting the board agreed with the school’s recommendation of closing the road entirely instead of making it one lane while they work to construct a new retaining wall.

The wall is being built on the west side of the road, similar to what currently exists on the right side. Original discussions between the city and the University centered around using a flagman and one lane of traffic flow, but the debate between which option would be better during Tuesday’s meeting ended up falling on the side of closing the road all together.

An approval of the request came with revised terms form what the original proposal sent by the University planning department. The school wanted to close the road from July 8-Aug. 9 for a length of 33 days. The city countered with giving the University the entire month of July (1-31) to complete the project. Part of the reasoning was due to the completion date going two days past the start of the 2019-2020 school year and would cause issues with school bus routes and other traffic.

Alderman Janice Antonow was opposed to closing the road completely, citing other projects had traffic still flowing throughout their duration.

“Any time we close a road it causes issues all over town,” Antonow said. “We (City of Oxford) built roundabouts on South Lamar and we didn’t close the road. We kept one lane open. Baptist also built a roundabout on South Lamar and kept one lane open. It used to be that in the summer the town closed down, but we don’t see that anymore.”

City engineer Reanna Mayoral, who spoke on behalf of university architect Ian Banner who could not make the meeting, noted there is a gas line that runs under the road, which would cause potential safety issues if traffic continued to run during construction.

Another requirement the city added to their approval was the re-opening of Chucky Mullins Drive and All-American Drive, which have been closed. Aldermen Rick Addy voiced his concern about the University’s ability to meet deadlines since several other projects have been closed longer than scheduled.

Chucky Mullins Drive closed a portion of the road between Highway 6 and Old Taylor Road last April to allow construction of the South Campus Recreation Facility and Transportation Hub. The road was scheduled to be re-opened in January but has remained closed. Before Tuesday’s meeting there had not been a new date announced by the school for when they would open the road back up.

All-American Drive, located on the south side of campus and runs by Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and The Pavilion, has been closed since November 21016. The University originally announced it would be closed during winter break, but the following January they said the road would remain closed to traffic to allow construction of the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) building. Since the road’s closure little work has been done in regards to constructing the STEM building.

The city wants Chucky Mullins Drive to re-open permanently and for All-American Drive to re-open for the duration of the Gertrude Ford construction project.