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Catfish Alley improvements moving forward

The Commercial Dispatch

Catfish Alley will soon get a makeover. 

Columbus city councilmen on Tuesday approved a $275,417 bid from Weathers Construction for the project. City Engineer Kevin Stafford said the project will create improvements around two alleys on the north and south sides of Jones Cafe on Fourth Street South. 

Stafford said the project has an estimated total cost of $367,648, though the final price could be lower as the estimate includes contingencies. 

It is mostly funded through a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) Grant through the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Stafford said the grant is an 80-20 match, with MDOT paying 80 percent of the project with funds administered by the Federal Highway Administration. That funding will amount to $294,118 for the project. 

The city and Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau are splitting the remaining costs. 

Stafford said the city approved paying up to $25,000. CVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter said her organization has approved up to $30,000 for the current fiscal year to use on the project and has already paid for preliminary work that has occurred at the site. 


Project details 

MDOT District 1 Local Public Agency Engineer Travis Wampler said he has worked with the city and CVB as the project has gone through planning and preparation stages. He said the project should go before the Mississippi Transportation Commission early next week for final approval. 

Stafford noted the southern alleyway is in good condition and only needs a few renovations. He said a stairway on the west side of the alley leading to a brick landing will see the most repairs. 

"The stairs are fine, but then it comes down to another brick landing that's in disrepair," Stafford said. "So we're going to fix it, apply concrete to it and go out into the courtyard that is next to the Tennessee Williams home." 

The north alley will see the bulk of the work. Stafford said previously above-ground utilities have already been moved underground. When work commences, a sidewalk with landscaping will be installed. That sidewalk will extend into the courtyard on the west end of the alley toward the Tennessee Williams home that will form a concrete landing with steps leading down to a sidewalk and grass area. 

Wampler said the project will improve Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility between the Tennessee Williams home and Catfish Alley. It will also help tie Catfish Alley into the Riverwalk and Highway 182 pedestrian bridge, he said. 

"When this is completed, not only will there be stairs, but there will also be a handicap ramp for access," Wampler said. "A lot of tourists try to go from the Tennessee Williams home to Catfish Alley. If people come to see one, they can see both." 


Work to start in spring 

Carpenter said she's excited to see the project, which has been in the works for several years, finally move forward. She said the landing could serve as a location for outdoor entertainment, and the project will generally serve to beautify the area. 

"We're so excited about the project," Carpenter said. "We've worked on it for over three years." 

Stafford said the project's timeline is still uncertain. He said Carpenter has indicated that the CVB would like to have it completed by late March, in time for the annual Pilgrimage, but that would take a very aggressive schedule because workers might not be out to start working on the project until March. 

"March will probably be the earliest they can get out in the field and do a whole lot of work," he said. "Now if you ask by May, yes, there's a good chance it will be done by May. We will push as hard as we can to have it by March 28."


By Alex Holloway

December 8, 2016 10:45:34 AM

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