HATTIESBURG — The pieces that will link downtown Hattiesburg and the Longleaf Trace finally are falling into place.
The spurs that eventually will connect Kamper Park/Hattiesburg Zoo and the Hattiesburg Train Depot to the spear of the Trace nearly are complete.
Construction on the main bike path-walkway that will run from just west of U.S. 49 along West Fourth Street to Main Street is expected to begin in January.
“We don’t have any sort of time specifics for it right now, but I think the general consensus is somewhere around the first of year,” said Herlon Pierce, executive director/trail manager.
Once completed, the Trace will stretch about 43 miles, from the Prentiss Gateway in Jefferson Davis County to downtown Hattiesburg.
A Mississippi Department of Transportation-mandated environmental study was accepted last month. City Engineer Bert Kuyrkendall said, a major step forward in “green lighting” the $1 million main-path project.
“The next thing now is the purchase of rights of way,” Kuyrkendall said.
Sharon Waits, engineering department accountant, said the city will wind up buying “about 23, 24 pieces of property” to accommodate the widening.
Complicating the project will be the near-simultaneous expansion of West Fourth Street itself. That work will gobble up portions of road-edge property to the south of the old Mississippi Central Railroad bed that traces the Trace, requiring expansion north of the rail bed as well.
Pierce said construction on the main trail likely will be split into two phases because of funding, meaning actual construction could span a year.
“You’d go from the (University of Southern Mississippi) Gateway to Hutchinson Avenue to start,” Pierce said. “Then, you’re probably looking at a time lag, maybe of three to four months, the way the money is scheduled by the state. So, you’re looking at a year, at least.”
But when done, the wayfares leading to the Train Depot and Kamper Park will be waiting.
Funded through MDOT, work on the spurs will come in at about $1.1 million, Waits said.
The Kamper Park line will run along Hutchinson Avenue, before dipping through eastern Jaycee Memorial Park. A bridge spanning Gordon’s Creek in the park’s southwest corner connects with High Street, which leads riders to 17th Avenue on the east side of Kamper Park/Hattiesburg Zoo.
The Train Depot spur will start about a half-block north of East Fourth Street on Main Street.
“It’s on the rail line at that point, going east, and then it parallels Fourth Street and it parallels Mobile Street, all the way to the depot,” Kuyrkendall explained.
Kuyrkendall said the city still has to repave and re-stripe sections of the trail running along East Fourth and Mobile streets.
The complete design calls for the Trace to eventually go from the depot to Chain Park.
“When it’s all said and done — and the money has been set aside for all these things — you’ll be able to go from Prentiss to Chain Park, all the way to Highway 11,” Kuyrkendall said.