Mayor Tannehill: State legislators “very receptive” during discussion about Oxford’s infrastructure issues

Published 2:15 pm Wednesday, February 5, 2020

It’s not a secret the infrastructure in and around Oxford and Lafayette County is in need of repairing, and Oxford mayor Robyn Tannehill says she’s well aware.

Several projects, which have been approved by the Mississippi Department of Transportation, have not begun for reasons regarding lack of funding or otherwise. The issue has gone on for several years and each legislative session, Tannehill makes the trip to Jackson to speak with legislators about receiving more funding than has been allotted to Oxford recently.

Last month was no different, as Tannehill took a trip to the state’s capitol to once again try to secure more funds and to receive answers to her questions regarding those projects.

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“I was able to meet with a lot of key legislators while I was in Jackson and they were very receptive to hearing our message about our infrastructure struggles with our enormous growth,” Tannehill said. “So, I’m hopeful.”

The project with the highest priority for Tannehill and Oxford residents is the Highway 7 and University Avenue intersection. During the 2018 session, the City asked legislators for $3 million to go toward that project, but was only awarded $750,000.

Plans for the project have been finalized, yet the search for more funding continues two years later for an intersection that is in dire need of repair to properly accommodate the amount of traffic that uses it on a daily basis.

“(The project) is designed by MDOT already, so it is a project that we could start on quickly if we had the funding to implement it,” Tannehill said. “Obviously, our largest struggle is the widening of Highway 7, but I don’t believe that that is a project that we see funded, strictly from a state level. I think that (project) will take federal dollars combined with state dollars. So, I am hoping that we will have a multi-jurisdictional effort to secure a grant to that ad the federal level.”

Around 2011, MDOT announced plans to widen Highway 7 from Belk Boulevard to the Highway 7-9 split. Four years later, MDOT announced the project had lost momentum due to lack of funding. Nearly all right-of-way acquisition required by MDOT is complete, leaving only the procurement of funds keeping the project from beginning.

John Caldwell, the newly-elected Northern District Commissioner for MDOT, recently took a tour around Oxford and looked at the infrastructure needs of the city.

The next step is to wait and see if Oxford is awarded any funds through a bond bill or through a road or bridge fund. There is also the money accrued through the new Mississippi Lottery, which recently made its first transfer of over $7.6 million to the state. The first $80 million made through the lottery will go toward Mississippi’s infrastructure needs, before shifting the money to the state’s education department.