Beech Street getting a facelift, including better sidewalks

Published 2:19 pm Friday, January 27, 2012

What can only be described as an overall facelift is going on along Beech Street that, when finished, will see the main West Picayune north-south thoroughfare from Goodyear Boulevard to Jackson Landing Road overlaid with a smooth surface and refurbished with new sidewalks.

Estimated cost of the entire project, says City Engineer Brooks Wallace, is approximately $400,000. The contract for the entire project was awarded to Huey Stockstill, Inc. of Picayune.

Wallace said approximately a little more than $300,000 in federal funding was used to overlay Beech Street, and a Mississippi Dept. of Transportation official on a walk-through inspection spotted the dilapidated sidewalks and said they would, because of change in a new federal regulation, have to be brought up to Americans With Disabilities Act compliance, adding another $75,000 added to the project.

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Since the local match was 80-20, for every dollar spent on the overlay project, for investing 20 cents on the dollar, Picayune gets 80 cents back in federal money. “It’s what’s called an 80-20 cost-share,” said Wallace.

“In other words, we got the overlay done at 20 cents on the dollar, but we had to do the sidewalk work in order to get it,” said Wallace.

Inclement weather had the project shut down on Thursday, but as soon as the sidewalk construction sites dry up enough, HSI crews will be back on the project, installing and upgrading new sidewalks, city officials said.

Another boon for the project area is that the Beech Street sidewalks feed foot-traffic into major educational facilities, South Side Elementary and Early Head Start, both at Rosa and Beech streets, which will make the whole area more pedestrian friendly, says Wallace.

There are several churches, residential communities and public housing along the stretch, too.

“When the project is completed, it will be a great upgrade to Beech Street that was badly needed,” said Wallace.

A change of one word in a federal regulation got the new sidewalks for Beech.

Federal regulations covering the project used the word “should” upgrade existing sidewalks to make them ADA compliant. That left a little window to ignore pedestrian needs, like sidewalks. Last year, however, the word was changed to “shall,” thus necessitating the upgrade along Beech.

Said Wallace, “In January of last year, they changed that phrase to ‘You shall’.

“So basically, if we are going to improve any of our federal routes, we don’t have to install sidewalks, but if they are there, you have to fix them,” he added. “You have to upgrade them to make them ADA compliant.”

It’s 1.4 miles from Goodyear Boulevard to Jackson Landing Road on Beech Street.

Officials say that after the project is finished, they hope some civic groups will take an interest in landscaping projects along the sidewalks and the street, making it an attractive thoroughfare in the inner-city.