Next rung of work on MV could come by year’s end

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Vicksburg officials learned Monday that construction on the next phase of a downtown U.S. Army Corps of Engineers interpretive center, with the MV Mississippi as its main exhibit, might start before the end of the year.

The city began making preparations to portions of Jackson and Levee streets while the center is built near City Front.

The Corps received bids for the work on Friday, said spokesman Kavanaugh Breazeale, and will award the project in three to four weeks.

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“We’ll likely announce a groundbreaking the first week of November,” Breazeale said.

The Jackson Street closing may take effect before the groundbreaking, said City Attorney Lee Davis Thames Jr. It will be closed to provide room for cranes and other necessary equipment, he said.

“That will close pretty soon after (the Corps) awards the contract, and that’s going to stay that way until the construction is complete,” said Thames, adding the construction time line he’s been given is bout 440 days.

Levee Street, meanwhile, will be closed to regular traffic between Jackson and Washington streets once construction gets under way. However, the city is requiring the Corps’ contractor to make provisions for large trucks to access Levee Street, said Thames.

“We’ve insisted they, at the very least, keep one lane of travel open for trucks to pass through,” he said. “It will be the contractor’s job to either flag or signal the trucks through, or they have the option of creating an alternate detour just west of Levee Street. There’s no other way to detour the trucks around.”

The 1,450-ton MV Mississippi IV was moved to City Front, north of the Levee Street Depot, in 2007. The museum and boat are slated to open in 2011. Also included in the project is a plan to move the long-closed bridge over the railroad tracks on Fairground Street and use it to connect the museum to an observatory and river overlook.

The MV Mississippi IV was retired in 1993 and was purchased by the city for $1 under the direction of former Mayor Joe Loviza. City officials transferred the title back to the Corps in 2005 when plans for the museum concept began to materialize. An artist’s rendering of the completed facility was unveiled in December.

Congress has funded the project in phases, and the eventual cost is expected to total about $15 million. The center will tell the story of how the Corps has worked to improve navigation on the lower Mississippi and limit the effect of flooding along the river and its tributaries. It will be one of few places where visitors can board an actual river workboat, which was the role of the MV Mississippi when it was the flagship of the Corps’ river fleet.

Once the hub of commerce, City Front has been revitalized in recent years with a now-completed series of floodwall murals centered on local history, an art park, playground and splash fountain. A transportation museum and conversion of office space for Vicksburg Main Street and the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau are likely uses for the Levee Street Depot, which has served as the backdrop for Fourth of July celebrations in recent years.