Bike trail for Vicksburg still possible, mayor says

Published 1:09 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023

There may still be some hope for the proposed 9.5-mile Wheels on the Hills bicycle trail.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. opened the door for the possible reconsideration of the project at Monday’s meeting of the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen after the board received a letter from project engineer Neel-Schaffer recommending it reject the project bid of Construction Specialists LLC of Jackson and suggested the city investigate alternatives to complete the project.

Construction Specialists, the lone bidder for the project, submitted a bid of  $296,264, which was $181,264 more than the project’s $115,000 budget.

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The engineer’s letter came after the board’s decision in March to kill the project and ask the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which administers the federal Transportation Alternative Program grant funding the project, to remove the bike trail from the city’s list of projects.

Monday, however, Flaggs asked Community Development Director Jeff Richardson to write a letter to MDOT outlining what the city has done to satisfy the grant and seek additional funding.

“Just write a letter to that group and let them know what happened,” he told Richardson. “They need to know that it (the bid) way exceeded the (projected) cost.”

One of the first things the board has to do before moving forward with the project, Flaggs said after the meeting, is find out why the project is so expensive “to just stripe it in that short distance. That’s a lot of money to pay for striping.”

Because of the grant’s deadline requirements, the mayor said the city will have to look for other options and grants for the project.

“We’re going to get the same program (project) through another grant with higher funding,” he said.

The Wheels on the Hills bicycle trail was 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 would pay for the work and be reimbursed through the grant. Flaggs said the grant funds cannot be increased.

The Wheels on the Hills project involved striping the 9.5-mile trail with an alternate project to install a bike rack. All the work 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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