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Construction on Gertrude Ford Boulevard begins

Oxford’s Board of Aldermen approved a request from the University of Mississippi planning department four months ago to close Gertrude Ford Boulevard for the month of July to work on constructing a retaining wall near the University Avenue bridge to match the one already built.

Four weeks after the project was scheduled to begin, construction is underway.

The University announced on Friday the project would start on Monday and run through Aug. 31.

The Board approved the University’s request on the condition of working from July 1-31, with the road closed to make sure the project was completed before school started for Oxford and Lafayette County on Aug. 7. Issues with the Mississippi Department of Transportation kept the project from starting on time, but the University got those issues worked out last week, allowing the project to begin.

When the initial request was brought before the Board of Aldermen, the University wanted to close the road completely, which would allow the project to be completed quicker. During the March 5 meeting, Alderman Janice Antonow expressed her concern over closing the road entirely.

“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.”

A gas line that runs under the road was the reasoning the University wanted the road completely closed during construction, a request which the city ultimately granted when the project was scheduled for the month of July. With the project now taking up all of August, the southbound lane will be closed, with a flagman positioned at both ends of the lane closure to navigate traffic.

All-American Drive was to be opened to traffic during the closure, but with Gertrude Ford Boulevard remaining open, that road will remain closed. The portion of Chucky Mullins Drive from Old Taylor Road to Highway 6 reopened in the spring as another condition set by the city in agreeing to the University’s request.