Road work won’t affect Riverfest, Rainer says

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 18, 2001

[04/18/01] Road work that has kept parts of Washington Street closed off for most of April will not interfere with Riverfest. Other downtown renovations are on hold indefinitely, the city’s public works director said.

The ongoing paving project extends from Bowmar Avenue to First East Street and will cover a couple of side streets off Washington, Bubba Rainer said.

APAC and city road crews are completing Phase I of the project that includes reducing some sidewalk and curb areas to create more handicap accessibility, taking off 1.5 inches of old asphalt, and repaving the street.

Rainer said resurfacing should be done by Thursday and should not interfere with Riverfest, a three-day, downtown-centered festival that starts Friday.

“It was emphasized to APAC that it had to be done before Riverfest and they agreed,” Rainer said.

Road crews have already completed work on the south end of Washington, from South Street to Bowmar, and work began on the north end Tuesday. The north end of the project covers the area of road between First East Street to two miles past the Vicksburg National Military Park Cemetery.

Downtown business owners said all the work may have hampered business slightly, but they are expecting to see positive long term results.

“It has put a bit of a damper on things,” said Karen Ruggles, co-owner of Cinnamon Tree, 1322 Washington. “It will be good for Riverfest though. It really hasn’t been too bad.”

Other renovations planned for Phase II include permanent striping on the road and paved parking lots. Temporary striping will be put down for the time being, Rainer said.

The installation of new lighting along Washington Street was predicted to begin the Monday following Riverfest but plans had to be put on hold because the bid the city received for the project in March was way over budget, Rainer said. He said the Board of Mayor and Aldermen will have to revisit the situation and decide what to do.

The lighting project had a budget of $150,000 and will cover the area from South Madison to China Street. Uniformity, better value and safer lighting were the reasons for the new lighting, Rainer said.

Ray Daumer, owner of Hill City News and Novelty at 1214 Washington St., said he is pleased with the new road surfacing but hopes it is not being driven on too soon.

“I’m happy with it being done,” Daumer said. “But they’re already letting cars back on it, and may be tearing it up. It seems a waste to do all that work if they let people drive on it too soon.”

However, Daumer said although the road work may have hampered business somewhat, he thinks it will be better for Riverfest visitors and will be a lot safer than the old asphalt.

Other renovations planned for downtown include a riverfront mural to be on a 57-foot section of flood wall at the foot of Clay Street. The project is being funded by the city and a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission and has a completion deadline of July 31.