Flaggs: Bike trail project dead unless state gives more money

Published 2:19 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

There will be no bicycle trail through downtown Vicksburg unless the Mississippi Department of Transportation comes up with more money, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said.

“I’m not paying $200,000 more and if the state of Mississippi, which has got billions of dollars with a ‘B,’ wants that bike trail they can put more money in it through the Department of Transportation,” Flaggs said at a March 24 meeting of the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen. “We’re not bidding it out anymore.”

The board has twice advertised for bids on the bicycle trail, and each time bids for the project came in more than the projected $115,000 budget.

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The project was initially bid in November. When the bids were received in January, Construction Specialists LLC of Jackson was the lone bidder with a $398,305.50 bid to mark the estimated 9.5-mile bicycle trail through Vicksburg — $283,305.50 more than the project budget. The board later rejected the bid and rebid the project. When the second bids were received on March 20, Construction Specialists was again the sole bidder and its second bid of $296,264 was over budget by $181,264.

“That project shouldn’t cost more than $100,000,” said Brian Robbins with Neel-Schaffer.

Neither Richardson nor Robbins could give a reason for the Construction Specialists’ bid or the lack of bidders on the project or the high bid. One problem, Flaggs said after March 24 meeting, was the size of the project. “It was too small.”

“None of the striping contractors submitted bids on it,” Community Development Director Jeff Richardson said. “They’re looking at large jobs; ours was too small.”

Kelle Barfield, who assisted in writing the grant, said the proposed trail “was a terrific vision for improving the experience of residents and visitors downtown.

“But unfortunately cost increases over the last couple of years since we received the grant have just made it far less cost-effective than it should have been. Planning for the project involved a number of people in our community and I would hope the idea stays alive even if this particular grant doesn’t,” she said.

Known as the Wheels on the Hills bicycle trail, the project is funded by a federal Transportation Alternative Program grant administered by the Mississippi Department of Transportation with $92,000 in federal funds and a $23,000 match from the city. The grant is a reimbursement grant, which means the city pays for the work and is reimbursed through the grant.

The city first advertised for bids in November. At the time, Community Development Director Jeff Richardson said the work in the project “is striping; almost all striping. I think there’s an alternate (in the bid package) for a bike rack, depending on the money.”

All the work, he said, would be in the city’s downtown area.

The bicycle route would follow a path from the Mississippi Welcome Center on Washington Street to its terminus at Haining Road.

The route included a tour through Vicksburg’s downtown and would follow the city’s downtown walking trails.

From Haining Road, cyclists could continue to U.S. 61 North and catch the Great River Road Bike Trail that runs from Walls in DeSoto County to Tunica.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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