A project that Mayor Toby Barker says Hattiesburg “has been needing for generations” is one step closer to fruition, as Hattiesburg City Council members recently approved a $13.63 million bid for work on the Hall Avenue East Overpass Project that will help alleviate train traffic through downtown Hattiesburg, particularly in the East Jerusalem neighborhood.
The bid was given to R&J Construction of Laurel during a recent council meeting as the lowest and best bid for the project, over TL Wallace’s bid of $14.57 million. The Hall Avenue East Overpass project will complement the Hall Avenue West Overpass Project, which last year received a $13.2 million federal BUILD grant that will help fund that work.
“There was so much time spent on obtaining funding for both of the overpasses, particularly the first (west) one,” Barker said. “To receive the grant, and with Senator (Roger) Wicker going after the grant, and all the effort that went into going to Washington a lot to speak with staffers and elected officials – all of that now leads to this.
“To know that a generations-old transportation challenge will soon be solved is rewarding. We’re building a state-of-the-art (Hattiesburg Public Safety Complex) building, but for the longest time you couldn’t get police officers a quarter-mile away into that east Jerusalem neighborhood. With this new overpass, you’ll be able to.”The Hall Avenue East Overpass Project will be constructed over the Canadian National rail line on the east end of Hall Avenue, beginning in the East Jerusalem neighborhood at East Hardy Street and turning west before passing over the rail line and ending at Bay Street and Hall Avenue. The Hall Avenue section will consist of two lanes, a curb and gutter, a new drainage system and improvements to lighting and landscaping.
A traffic signal also will be installed at the intersection of East Hardy and Gulfport streets. The overpass also is expected to provide easier access for emergency personnel to the Hattiesburg Public Safety Complex on Hall Avenue, which upon completion will serve as the new home to Hattiesburg Police Department and the city’s municipal court.
The grant is part of $16.02 million in federal grant money that has been awarded for road improvements in Hattiesburg and the Jackson metro area. Approximately $2.8 million of those funds are going to support the planning phase for relocating the Bob Anthony Parkway that carries traffic from Madison and Rankin counties across the Barnett Reservoir spillway.
The BUILD grant, which is the largest federal grant Hattiesburg has received in recent history, will be added to $5.39 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement grant recently awarded to the city.
The Hall Avenue West Overpass Project will see the construction of an overpass over the western portion of Hall Avenue that will connect with West Pine Street.
“Of course, the CRISI grant we received in early 2020 helped make the first one (west overpass project) possible,” Barker said. “While the cost of construction is much higher than when we first got this grant, we had such a capacity in our bonding authority to take care of that extra match.
“I think for downtown, and just the east side of town, this is going to be a game-changer when it’s completed. When you add to that the public safety building and the future west overpass on Hall Avenue, you feel you are setting up east Hattiesburg for future development.”
Now that the project has been awarded, officials hope to break ground on the east overpass project in the spring of 2022. From there, buildout will probably take 18 to 20 months.
“I think with proper infrastructure, which will come with both of these overpasses, you’re going to see opportunities for economic development and growth in east Hattiesburg,” Barker said.