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There’s Just Not Enough Summertime for Oxford’s Many Road Projects

The roundabout on South Lamar Boulevard is fully functioning Friday morning and one of several road projects around Oxford this summer.
Photo by Alyssa Schnugg

By Alyssa Schnugg
Staff writer

With schools starting earlier each August, city, county and state road crews are scrambling to complete projects during the eight weeks of summer when schools are closed.

Road crews also compete with Mother Nature and private developers, leaving local drivers frustrated as traffic increases and road construction continues as students from the University of Mississippi return to start classes Monday.

“We have received complaints about the work being done during move-in week,” said assistant city engineer Reanna Mayoral. “We understand that there have been inconveniences, but we are trying to get the work completed before classes resume and before football season begins.”

Each year, the city of Oxford’s Public Works Department attempts to schedule as much work as possible in the eight-week period of June and July to provide as little disruption to traffic in Oxford as possible. However, so does Lafayette County, the university and the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Private developments are also working to complete all construction and have it ready for fall move-in dates.

“This means that we are often sharing the same resources in contractors,” Mayoral said. “This also means that there may be multiple projects going on in various parts of town at the same time. Depending on the project, it is not always possible to hit the eight-week window.”

Several streets are currently being paved. Contracts for that paving were put in place in October 2017, explains Mayoral.

“The contractor bids the work in October without knowing what amount of work they will have for us, which streets will be paved or when we will ask for the work to be completed,” she said. “We usually assess the roads in late spring of the following year to determine which roads need to be paved. We then notify the contractor and we ask that he complete the work after local schools finish and before UM resumes.”

The contractor then coordinates the work and lets the city know when they can be on site. This same contractor is usually paving miles of interstate, highway, other city’s streets, county roads and private developments during this same period.

“We are asking the contractor to move all of the necessary equipment and labor to town for three to four days of work out of the entire summer,” Mayoral said. “In order to keep the costs down, the contractor has to try to schedule his work for the best productivity.”

And some projects can’t be scheduled or planned ahead of time. Thanks to a sewer line that needed immediate repair work, a portion of Anderson Road was closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

“When we found out that the line was going to have to be repaired, we asked the contractor to complete it this week rather than waiting until classes resume next week or football season began,” Mayoral said.

The few weeks of summer have been a busy time for the Public Works Department. Crews widened and installed left turning lanes on Jefferson Avenue. A new water main was put in along Old Taylor Road. Stripping changes were made to Home Depot Drive to allow for a dedicated left, thru and right turning lanes. Changes were made to the roundabout on Sisk Avenue near the Oxford High School as part of the Sisk Avenue extension project.

“Our Street Department and Water and Sewer Department have been working all summer on various improvement projects regarding sidewalks, damaged roadways or utilities, and striping,” Mayoral said. “Oxford Electric has buried many electrical lines to remove overhead power lines during this time as well.”

One construction site that has flared the tempers of many drivers this summer is the roundabout on South Lamar and Belk Boulevard.

However, Public Works Director Bart Robinson said construction is nearing completion, who admitted the roundabout could have been finished quicker if South Lamar was closed.

“But due to the limited routes from south Oxford to the north side of Oxford, we would not allow Baptist Hospital and their contractor to close South Lamar,” he said in an email.
The roundabout contract time does not end until November. 

Crews worked this past Saturday to install a cross drain across South Lamar rather than doing it during the week when there are more cars on the road.

“We don’t want to inconvenience the public any more than we have to,” Mayoral said. “But, the work has to be done. As the area grows, we are finding that window of opportunity narrowing each year.”

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