Oxford, MS — In recent years Old Taylor Road has seen large growth and increased pedestrian traffic. This has exasperated both the need for improvements to the bridge as well as the pressure to complete the addition of the two lanes by August 15th before Ole Miss’ fall semester begins.
In the fall, Ole Miss sees huge population spikes in the form of move-in day and during football season where thousands of fans are funneled on and off campus through the Old Taylor entrance. On average the bridge sees 11,000 vehicles heading south and 13,000 heading north, according to an article from Daily Journal. Though the project is in the hands of MDOT, these worries are at the forefront of city engineer Bert Robinson’s mind.
Robinson was able to be reached by email and when asked what concerns he had regarding the completion of bridge improvements before August he said that the project schedule was ambitious with some large incentives to complete the bridge work on time.
“We have major concerns that the bridge will not be complete by the time school starts back in the fall strictly because of the volume of traffic,” said Robinson. “However, MDOT has spent a great deal of time and resources to insure the bridge is open by August.”
Robinson says it is an ambitious project with some large incentives to complete the bridge work on time and some substantial penalties for failure to complete it on time. Will three months be enough time to widen the Old Taylor Bridge and have it ready for the high traffic flow that comes with every Fall Semester at Ole Miss?
Despite assurance from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and Robinson that Talbot Brothers Construction Company is quite capable and has done a lot work for MDOT in the recent years, many Oxford locals are still left unsure.
“It’s gonna get pretty ugly if the bridge isn’t opened by next semester,” said Ole Miss sophomore Harrison Dickens. “They’re building that road through Whirlpool with summer traffic in mind, not football season.
While traffic concerns are prevalent in many students minds, others are more worried about the ramifications not meeting the tight schedule would have on pedestrians going from their housing on Old Taylor to the Grove considering that OUT does not run busses down Old Taylor on game days.
“My main worry about the bridge not getting finished in time is what happens to people that walk to the Grove from Old Taylor if the bridge isn’t there,” Said Oxford local Ty Meadows. “Getting a ride to drop you off isn’t always the easiest thing. I’m really hoping that the Whirlpool road isn’t going to be our best option.”
Though the financial burden of $6.4 billion is on MDOT, the city itself will likely take the brunt of the backlash if there is an extension to the bridge’s closure. Three months is an ambitious schedule for the overpass related goals of the project, even more so when considering the possibility of bridge construction continuing into the fall semester.
While corresponding with Robinson, he gave further detail on the relief road being constructed through the whirlpool facility from Coliseum Drive.
“The Coliseum Drive temporary road will be constructed on top of the existing parking and drive areas,” said Robinson. “The guard house will be removed and there will be a fence installed adjacent to the temporary road.”
Talbot Brothers Construction Company were unable to be reached for comment on how they feel about the construction schedule.