The $1.2 million project on Hattiesburg’s North 38th Avenue that is providing a landscaped median, a stoplight at 38th Avenue and Montague Boulevard, and new lighting fixtures is fast nearing completion, with officials hopefully expecting work to be completed by Labor Day.
As of this week, workers have put up the traffic light, installed curbs and gutters, run electricity to medians, and installed Sternberg lighting along the sidewalk.
“They’re making great progress,” said Ward 1 City Councilman Jeffrey George, who spearheaded the project. “I know it’s a little bit of a headache for everybody, and the road is quite narrow as you’re going through there. But I’m very pleased with how quickly they’re moving along.”
Trenches also have been dug in the median, which will feature beautification such as trees and shrubbery.
“That’ll all be landscaped with various (items),” George said. “It’s similar to what you would see on West 4th Street when you’re headed towards downtown.
“And one good thing that we’re doing is actually running electricity to those medians, just in case we wanted to put up lights during the holidays or whatever it may be. That was part of the project, which I think was a good idea that wasn’t done on some other streets.”
About two months ago, city officials held a news conference at 38th Avenue Baptist Church to announce the project, where Mayor Toby Barker said the avenue should be considered more than just a cut-through to get from 7th Street or 4th Street out to Hardy Street.
“Many hundreds of people live along 38th Avenue, and it is now the de facto western boundary of the University of Southern Mississippi,” he said. “This project will transform this roadway into a full-fledged boulevard to accommodate the many residential units – both single and multi-family – the businesses, the church, the daycare centers, and of course our student population.”
Eighty percent of the funds were obligated from the federal and state Metropolitan Planning Organization, with 20 percent of construction and engineering paid for by the City of Hattiesburg from its dedicated road and bridge fund. Construction on the project is being conducted by Webster Electric.
City Engineer Lamar Rutland is managing the project, along with the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Neel-Schaffer is managing the engineering and construction processes.
“This piggybacks on the back of a network of sidewalks we participated with, with the city, and with MDOT: South 37th Avenue, South 34th Avenue, Arlington Loop, J. Ed Turner, and now 38th Avenue,” Forrest County District 5 Supervisor Chris Bowen said. “This has just been the crème de la crème when it comes to this terrible (COVID-19) virus that we’ve been fighting.
“It’s allowed our constituents to get out and get some exercise; it’s allowed people to commute to and from work and school. It’s beautiful to see people out on the sidewalks, and I think we were really forethinking being able to get out in front of that network of sidewalks. I wish we could have some more out there, but we will work towards that.”