Bypass needed, but the best route should be found first

Published 7:45 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The early visitor reviews of the Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi have been very encouraging and enthusiastic, and have inspired Mayor George Flaggs Jr. to begin reconsidering building a bypass road from U.S. 61 South to the U.S. Army Corps Engineer Research and Development Center.

The mayor said the bypass road is one of two roads he plans to build in the area. The other is an emergency access/exit road for the sports complex further south on Fisher Ferry Road.

Both roads are necessary.

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The park needs an emergency outlet to either evacuate or reroute traffic in case the park’s main entrance/exit is blocked for any reason. And as city attorney Nancy Thomas pointed out, the city has an easement to build a road from the sports complex site to the south side of St. Michael Catholic Church.

But building a bypass road that will reroute traffic from the ERDC campus to U.S. 61 South and provide access to the sports complex is another matter. City officials have to determine a route and the project’s cost, including money to purchase land for the project, whether it’s by eminent domain or negotiation.

The mayor in 2018 proposed building a bypass road starting at Dana Road, which is off U.S. 61 South, but shelved the plan in the face of opposition from Dana Road area residents, who were concerned about potential safety and traffic problems.

The mayor’s suggestion of a south loop road using Dana Road was based on a $28,000 study by Stantec during his first term that recommended Dana Road as part of the loop. A study done in 1996 by Neel-Schaffer recommended a loop road starting from Rifle Range Road, and both plans at some point go through floodplain areas that will require special attention and construction.

While there is no argument a loop, bypass, or access road from U.S. 61 South to Halls Ferry Road, or to whichever road is designated, is needed for ERDC and the sports complex, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen needs to do its due diligence before acting.

That means examining more than one or two possible proposals to find the best route for the road that will cause as little impact as possible on the budget, on residents in the area and the land that sits in the middle.